The Sindh government on Sunday decided to keep all educational institutions in the province closed until March 13 in view of the threat posed by the novel coronavirus.
The decision was taken by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who was heading the fourth meeting of the committee formed to review the situation in the wake of the first case of the virus reported in Karachi on February 26, according to information released by Shah's office.
During the meeting, the chief minister was informed that 738 passengers had arrived in Karachi from Iran till now, while 13,098 had arrived at Taftan.
The meeting decided to keep all educational institutions closed till March 13 as this would give the authorities time to ascertain how many of the people returning from Iran had met their children and relatives.
Keeping this in mind, Chief Minister Shah after consultation with the committee members directed the secretaries for education, colleges, and universities and boards to issue notifications for the closure of educational institutions till the said date.
The meeting justified that till that time, the recommended isolation period of 14 days would also be over and the authorities would also be able to screen the passengers returning from Iran as well as any relatives they may have come into contact with.
The committee was informed that six suspects belonging to Khairpur, Jacobabad, Tando Jam and Karachi South were being kept in quarantine and their samples were sent for testing.
The result of one of the six samples was received which was negative, while results of the remaining five samples were awaited.
Chief Minister Shah during the meeting directed all agencies, including the Federal Investigation Agency and the health department, to maintain close coordination with the concerned officers working at Taftan border so that they keep sharing day-to-day data of the passengers arriving there.
According to the handout, the meeting was told that airport authorities have started enforcing all effective screening measures so that no active virus case could enter Karachi. Shah also directed the Karachi commissioner to visit the Karachi airport randomly.
The chief minister in his message to the people of Sindh said that there was no need for them to worry. “The measures we are taking such as closing of educational institutions, tracking the passengers and coordinating with the families of the pilgrims are purely for the safety of our people,” he said, urging residents to cooperate with the government.
Last week, when Pakistan confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus, the Sindh government had decided to close educational institutions in the province for two days on Thursday and Friday (Feb 27 and Feb 28).
The Sindh administration had on Saturday asked families who have recently visited Iran not to send their children to schools for 14 days.
WHO satisfied with Pakistan's response
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Sunday expressed confidence in the way the Pakistani government is treating the coronavirus patients as per standardised clinical protocols.
The health agency also announced that it is stepping up provision of immediate support to the government so that preparedness and response measures are in place to handle the situation as it develops.
"I am impressed by the swift and diligent way the government has handled the crisis so far, and WHO is committed to support them every step of the way," said Representative of the WHO in Pakistan, Dr Palitha Mahipala.