President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday told the interagency task force against Covid-19 that there should be no face-to-face classes until a vaccine against the virus becomes available.

Duterte said he didn’t care if students fell behind their studies as the priority should be their health.

“I will not allow the opening of classes if dikit-dikit mga bata… Wala nang aral. Laro na lang… Bakuna muna. Pag nand’yan na bakuna, okay na,” he said during the meeting, broadcast over state television.

The task force had drawn up guidelines that would allow the resumption of face-to-face classes in basic and higher education by August, although those who are able to hold online classes could begin as early as June.

Duterte said he believed that “by the grace of God, we will have the vaccine before the end of the year.”

Rich countries, he said, were working feverishly to develop a vaccine.

“Without a vaccine … that spells disaster,” he said. (