Schools to be closed from March 15 in several cities due to COVID-19 outbreak: Shafqat Mehmood

Schools to be closed from March 15 in several cities due to COVID-19 outbreak: Shafqat Mehmood

  • School to be closed for two weeks from Monday, March 15 owing to spike in coronavirus cases.
  • Important decision regarding O and A level, inter and matric exams.
  • Earlier decision of allowing indoor weddings, indoor dining and opening of cinemas and shrines with effect from March 15 has been withdrawn.
  • 50% work from home policy will be implemented on the discretion of provinces.
  • 10pm deadline for commercial activities has been reimposed.

ISLAMABAD: Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood on Wednesday announced the closure of schools in several cities from Monday, March 15 following a spike in coronavirus cases.

Speaking to the media after a meeting at the National Command and Operations (NCOC), the federal minister said educational institutes would be closed in Islamabad and other Punjab cities from Monday for two weeks.

The SAPM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said a decision had also been taken to extend a ban on indoor activities and reimpose the 50% work-from-home policy. The implementation of the work from home policy has been left to the discretion of the provinces, but will go into effect in Islamabad immediately.

Read more: Schools in 7 Punjab cities will close from Monday

He said the situation will be further reviewed on 12th of next month.

Sultan said the vaccination process of senior citizens of 60 year age and above has been started and such citizens can get vaccination sending their CNIC number to 1166. 

Earlier, the NCOC, which had met with Planning Minister Asad Umar in the chair today, was given a comprehensive update and review about the guidelines issued for coronavirus prevention valid till March 15.

The country’s apex COVID-19 body took the following decisions:

  • Strict compliance with mask-wearing will continue across the board.
  • Smart lockdowns/micro smart lockdowns will continue to be imposed based on disease prevalence/hotspots.
  • 50% work from home policy will be implemented at the discretion of federating units. However, it will be enforced in Islamabad with immediate effect.
  • The time limit of 10:00pm on all commercial activities will be re-enforced with immediate effect, less essential services.
  • Amusement parks across the country will be closed at 6:00pm.
  • The earlier decision of allowing indoor weddings, indoor dining and the opening of cinemas and shrines with effect from 15th March 21 has been withdrawn. However, outdoor dining/take away will continue to remain open as per previous practice.
  • Outdoor gatherings will continue to remain limited to a maximum of 300 individuals with strict enforcement of COVID-19 SOPs.
  • A review of all enforced NPIs will be carried out on April 12, 2021.
  • The above-mentioned decisions regarding NPIs are base-line decisions. Federating units are at liberty to impose stricter NPIs in selected Cities/Districts keeping in view the local disease trend/spread.

Read more: Sports activities restricted at schools in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, 4 other cities

Decisions regarding educational institutes

While briefing the media about school opening modalities, Shafqat Mehmood said, “the good news is that in Sindh and Balochistan, the situation is pretty much normal. As per the decisions taken [during the meeting] only 50% of students will be allowed in schools [in Sindh and Balochistan] and they will observe all SOPs including social distancing and wearing masks.”

However, in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the federal education minister said that while 50% of attendance in educational institutions will be followed, some cities will see stricter measures.

“All educational institutions in Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Lahore, Gujrat, Multan, Rawalpindi and Sialkot will remain closed from March 15 till 28,” he said, adding that the closure will be counted as a spring break.

In Islamabad as well, schools and other educational institutions will also be closed from Monday on account of a spring break and be reopened on March 28.

In KP, the same measures will be taken for Peshawar’s educational institutions.

“Owing to a rise in positivity ratios in Peshawar, educational institutions and schools will remain closed from Monday, March 15 till March 28,” he said.

“In other districts and cities [of KP], attendance will be 50% subject to the ongoing situation,” he said, adding that provincial governments will hold a “constant review” of the situation and will have the right to order the closure of schools, educational institutions and other places keeping in mind the coronavirus situation.

Cambridge and matric, inter exams to be held as per schedule

The education minister, however, clarified that O level, A level and other exams will be held as per schedule in Pakistan.

“These exams being conducted by schools will not be applicable on these exams,” he said, recalling that exams for grades 10, 11 and 12 will be held this year in May and June.

“Our children are giving [inter and matric] exams under the Pakistani boards, hence the same [rule] will also apply for children giving exams for other boards,” he said, referring to O level and A level students.