Coronavirus in Pakistan: Shafqat Mehmood says schools to be closed in several cities from Monday

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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood is holding an important press conference with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan at the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) to review the coronavirus situation in the country and school opening modalities.

These were the important decisions taken by the NCOC:

  • Strict compliance of mask wearing will continue across the board.
  • Smart lockdowns / micro smart lockdowns will continue to be imposed based on the disease prevalence / hotspots.
  • 50% work from home policy will be implemented on the discretion of provinces. 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.
  • Earlier decision of allowing indoor weddings, indoor dining and opening of cinemas and shrines with effect from 15th March 21 has been withdrawn.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 12th April 21.
  • 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.

Dr Faisal Sultan announced that the NCOC had decided to go back to the decision of allowing only 50% attendance in workplaces, as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise.

The press conference followed a meeting of all education ministers of the provinces and Shafqat Mehmood. “Education is a sector which is directly linked to this disease,”he said, referring to the coronavirus.

SINDH AND BALOCHISTAN

“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% students will be allowed in schools [in Sindh and Balochistan] and they will observe all SOPs including social distancing and wearing masks.”

PUNJAB

As for Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the federal education minister said that 50% attendance in educational institutions will be followed except for some cities.

“All educational institutions in Punjab’s Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Lahore, Gujrat, Multan, Rawalpindi and Sialkot will remain closed from Monday till March 28,” he said, adding that these institutions will be closed on account of the spring break.

ISLAMABAD

Mehmood said that schools and other educational institutions across the capital city will also be closed from Monday and reopened on March 28.

KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA

The minister said that the same measures have been taken for Peshawar’s educational institutions that were taken for Punjab’s cities.

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

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

Cambridge , matriculation and intermediate exams to be held as per schedule

The minister 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, reminding 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 in 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.

Mehmood urges schools and educational institutions to monitor the coronavirus situation on an individual level and reach out to the relevant authorities.

Govt holds meeting as coronavirus cases surge across country

Given the alarming surge in coronavirus cases across the country,  the federal minister said the situation is not the same as it was in November-December. “The rate of cases has spiked within a week,” he added.

Last month, the federal minister had announced that all the educational institutes would resume regular 5-day classes from March 1.

He had said that the announcement applies to every educational institution in the designated cities where restrictions had been imposed.

The coronavirus positivity rate has risen significantly in the first week of March ringing alarm bells at the NCOC which announced on Monday to review the decision of easing further restrictions.

The NCOC meeting, chaired by Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, also considered deferring the opening up of cinemas, indoor weddings, and dine-in restaurants.

The meeting expressed its concerns over public complacency in following non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs or alternate measures to treat the disease other than medical treatment).

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