Schools won’t be closed, reiterates education minister

–Imran calls NCC meeting; Asad stresses need for immediate measures needed

ISLAMABAD: In the wake of a resurgence of the Covid-19, Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood rejected the rumours regarding the shutdown of schools and said that “at the moment no such decision has been made”.

“Rumours again afloat regarding school closures. It is again clarified that educational institutions are NOT being closed,” he announced on Twitter.

The minister added that the government would keep a close on the situation and monitor the health of students and teachers.

Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas had earlier said that no schools were being closed in spite of the rising number of cases.

“Keeping a very close watch on COVID 19 cases in Schools of Punjab. Random testing is being done continuously. There is a slight increase in numbers but nothing alarming. Situation being analysed on daily basis. There is NO plan to close Schools as of right now. Please follow SOPs [standard operating procedures],” he had tweeted.

Earlier, Director of General Health Services Islamabad Dr Hassan Orooj said that the public is not following Covid-19 SOPs, adding that a second lockdown now seems “inevitable”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan has called a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on Tuesday to discuss ways to combat the respiratory disease.

The PM will also be briefed by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on the situation.

Hours before the announcement of the meeting, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar had said that the government was considering measures to curb the spread of the disease, which first caused a countrywide lockdown in March.

“Recommendations will be tabled in the NCC being called for tomorrow,” he said on Twitter. “Need to take immediate measures which have the most impact on disease spread without curtailing economic activity.”

Previously, Pakistan had imposed a 21-day lockdown before it began easing restrictions. PM Imran often spoke against strict lockdowns due to their economic impact, especially on the lives of poor workers.

Pakistan had seen its peak in June, with over 6,000 reported cases in a single day, but by August, that number had fallen to about 200 per day. Under these circumstances, the government had allowed schools to reopen.

Unfortunately, cases began to rise again in October, and on November 1, 2020, Pakistan recorded 1,123 new Covid-19 cases in a single day.

Pakistan’s positivity ratio has risen to over 4 per cent, but this is still below the World Health Organisation (WHO) threshold of 5 per cent.

Speaking to a local news outlet, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said, “The second wave is here in Pakistan.”

Health officials insist that if people follow guidelines such as wearing face masks in public spaces and the government relaunches a mass awareness campaign about the virus, another lockdown can be avoided.

On Monday, Karachi reported 289 new coronavirus cases out of the total 443 infections registered in Sindh, the province’s chief minister Murad Ali Shah said.

Among the new cases, 90 were reported from Karachi’s South District, 83 East, 48 Central, 40 Malir, 18 Korangi, and 10 from West, the chief minister said.

Furthermore, Hyderabad reported 39 new cases, Tando Mohammad Khan 18, Shikarpur 12, Khairpur 10, Dadu eight, Ghotki seven, Jamshoro and Sanghar six each, Thatta five, Shaheed Benazirabad four, Matiari three, Badin two, Kashmore, Mirpurkhas, Naushehroferoze, Sujawal and Umerkot one each.