College of Science and Mathematics

Proposed Diagnostics Program for Free COVID-19 Testing

Written by Rene Estremera. Posted in News

The University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao is proposing a diagnostic program that can give free testing for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the Davao Region. The program includes establishing a PhP15-million biosafety molecular lab, which will have to be attached to a hospital and is expected to supplement the ongoing tests in the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC). SPMC is currently the only medical facility in Mindanao recognized as a subnational reference laboratory that can test for COVID-19. 
Philippine Genome Center (PGC) Mindanao director Dr. Lyre Anni Murao, a professor of virology at UP Mindanao and author of the proposal, wrote, “To back up the existing facility in SPMC and to prepare for the unprecedented peak of outbreak of the disease, it is only imperative to consider the establishment of another diagnostic facility for faster and efficient diagnosis for coronavirus. For example, the Marikina local government has established its own diagnostic lab for free COVID-19 testing of local health workers and suspected cases.”
The proposed lab will be made from two container vans—the easiest way to set up the facility—and equipped with a real-time polymerase chain reaction or PCR detection system and other equipment. The facility will also be designed to handle infectious materials based on guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health (DOH). 
Dr. Murao stated, “The role of PGC Mindanao is capability building. We will organize trainings for our partner hospital on biosafety procedures and molecular diagnostics. During the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, our staff can also assist in the testing if there is a need for extra personnel. But eventually, our partner hospital will have to run the lab itself. That’s why it is important for this lab to be attached to a hospital so its operations will be sustainable in the long run.” 
When operating in full capacity at 96 tests per day, monthly operational costs for the lab (procuring kits, reagents, and consumables, as well as costs for other requirements) are pegged at PhP10.3 million.
WHO recommends that interrupting human-to-human transmission through community quarantine, social distancing, and other measures should be coupled with aggressive testing in order to identify, isolate, and treat patients early. These strategies in concert are known to be effective as in the case of China, Singapore, and South Korea. But as WHO has repeatedly announced, lockdowns and social distancing are not enough.
In a recent study, UP Mindanao biomathematical expert Dr. May Anne Mata notes, “With the current landscape of COVID-19 in the region, testing asymptomatic individuals or COVID-19 carriers is necessary since they may show no symptoms but can freely transmit the disease if not regulated.”
Her mathematical model’s projections show that the total COVID-19 carriers in Davao Region will likely reach a maximum of 3000 individuals with a testing rate of 0.1% per day—that is, for every 1000 COVID-19 asymptomatic individuals, only 1 is tested. But if the testing rate is increased to 70% to 100% per day, the number of COVID-19 carriers will reach 0 within a faster period compared to the status quo testing capacity.
The study has not yet been published, but an early draft will be presented to local authorities to help guide policies in the region moving forward. 
Last Friday, March 20, a UP Mindanao delegation consisting of the chancellor Dr. Larry Digal, the vice chancellor for academic affairs Dr. Nilo Oponda, and PGC Mindanao director Dr. Murao met with officials from the city council and DOH, as well as advisors from SPMC, to discuss the proposal. The delegation also met with SPMC chief Dr. Leopoldo Vega afterwards.
“Testing is really necessary. In fact, some local government units have already expressed interest in investing in such a lab facility. For the Davao Region, we are exploring all options on how to fund this initiative, particularly a private-public partnership. We already have contacts from the private sector who are willing to help in procuring much-needed equipment like PCR machines compatible with available test kits. The machine needs to be imported and is a costly investment. For now, we are awaiting formal response from DOH and the Davao Region COVID-19 Task Force to see how we can proceed,” said Chancellor Digal.
Dr. Murao added, “This lab can also serve as a model that can be replicated in other sites of the country for accurate and timely detection of the disease. The lab also has future use for other infectious and emerging diseases, making the country even more prepared for crisis such as this.”
As of 12 noon, March 22, the Davao Region has recorded 3 patients testing positive for COVID-19, with 58 out of the 104 persons under investigation (PUIs) admitted (5 deaths: 2 cleared; 3 awaiting confirmation) and 6837 out of the 8285 persons under monitoring (PUMs) still under observation according to DOH XI. 
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Cancellation of classes, 2020

Written by Rene Estremera. Posted in News

3F, Quezon Hall, Diliman, Quezon City
Tele/Fax: (632) 962-6345; 9818722; 9818500 local 2528
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs

20 March 2020

Memorandum No. OVPAA 2020-38

For: UP System Faculty

(through the Chancellors, Vice-Presidents for Academic Affairs, the
Deans, Institute Directors and Department Chairs)

From: Maria Cynthia Rose Banzon Bautista
Vice-President for Academic Affairs

On the Suspension of Technology-Supported Learning

In light of the enhanced community quarantine over the entire Luzon and the imposition of similar measures in other regions of the country, classes both residential and online and alternative learning activities in the UP System (except UP Open University) are suspended until 14 April 2020 while the University assesses the situation and decides on how best to facilitate learning and manage academic requirements in the time of COVID-19. Since the situation remains very fluid, the University’s academic response to the crisis will be crafted iteratively and disseminated accordingly.

In the meantime, the faculty is urged to continue exploring alternative delivery modes apart from online tools and to learn to optimize the use of online tools from home, if feasible. They are also expected to use the time to calibrate their courses beyond the stipulated 23 March 2020 deadline for the submission of revised syllabi in OVPAA Memorandum No. 2020-35—which is now lifted. In addition, faculty members and officials are encouraged to share creative strategies or thoughts on how to move forward by email with their Vice-Chancellors for Academic Affairs cc
In the course of calibrating courses, the faculty may take the following considerations into account: 

o The University’s education site subscription to ZOOM will be available within the next few days. This will enable hosting and attendance of formal and informal meetings, classes and webinars even after the projected mid-April end of the lockdown as long as the UP System faculty, staff and students use their addresses, gadgets and access to the internet. The epidemiological pattern of the disease suggests that it may peak around May and begin its decline thereafter. However, the period of decline will not necessarily imply a return to normalcy in the next few months.
OVPAA Memorandum 2020-31 and 2020-35 directed the faculty to utilize UP’s learning management system and other platforms for uploading learning materials, assessment tools and student submissions, and interacting with students. The period of suspension is also a time to further enhance the use of these platforms in preparation for the lifting of the suspension of classes.

The suspension is also the time for the faculty to get to know each of their students more and take their situation into account when calibrating their courses.

o There are different types of technology-supported learning activities, from “low-tech” options (e.g. Q&A via SMS, printed worksheets) to online activities (e.g. blogs, online quizzes, discussion fora, webinars), that may be utilized given the varying conditions of our campuses and students. The Webinar Series that UPOU is offering to the faculty of other UP Constituent Units will discuss these and general principles in the design of technology-supported learning.
o In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Universities worldwide confront the same challenge of enabling learning in the midst of disruption, albeit under different conditions depending on the level of development of their societies. Recommendations of fellow academics on how to deal with the crisis are worth noting. Consider, for instance, some of the tips of University of Washington Professor Penas on Pedagogy in Time of Epidemic that is available at

1) Prioritize: What do students really need to know for the next few weeks? This is really difficult, and, once again, it means that the quality of teaching and learning will suffer. But these are NOT normal circumstances.
2) Stay in contact with students, and stay transparent. Talk to them about why you’re prioritizing certain things or asking them to read or do certain things. Most of us do that in our face-to-face teaching anyway, and it improves student buy-in because they know content and delivery are purposeful.
3) Make assignments lower or no stakes if you’re using a new platform. Get students used to just using the platform. Then you can do something higher stakes. Do not ask students to do a high stakes exam or assignment on a new platform.

o There are also various online discipline-specific resources that faculty can explore, such as the STEM video education library of the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) at
On the Lifting of Deadlines
The deadline for dropping and leave of absence for the second semester 2019-2020 is hereby lifted. The new deadlines will be announced in subsequent memos.
Thank you and please stay safe.
Screenshot 2020-03-12-20-22-14-60 e2d5b3f32b79de1d45acd1fad96fbb0fRSZ6012 March 2020
In accordance with the Davao City Government Guidelines No. 07 for Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19), ALL classes are hereby CANCELLED effective tomorrow, 13 March 2020.  All faculty are advised to immediately shift to online mode or take-home assignments UNTIL AFTER the public health emergency is lifted. A copy of the Davao City Guidelines No. 7 is hereby attached for your reference.
Thank you.
Davao City Goverment Guidelines No. 7, click here
Memorandum from the Office of the Vice-President for Academic Affairs, click here 

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