PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Friday decided to close all public and private educational institutions in the province until April 5 and imposed an immediate ban on all official gatherings until further orders over the fears of coronavirus outbreak.
Health minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra and adviser to the chief minister on information Ajmal Wazir told reporters that the provincial cabinet on Friday discussed the province’s response to the coronavirus issue.
Mr Jhagra said the cabinet decided about the closure of schools, colleges, universities, academies, tuition centres, coaching and training institutes, and any other teaching institutions functioning in both public and private sectors with an immediate effect.
He said all public and private hostels would be vacated, while students would be asked to go home.
Mr Jhagra said the government also decided to postpone the board examinations or any other internal exams and assessment in schools with an immediate effect until further notice.
Minister says cabinet decides to ban official gatherings, postpone exams
He said the government would impose an immediate ban on all official gatherings, including seminars and sports and cultural events until further notice.
“To set an example, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has cancelled his very important public meeting scheduled for March 15,” he said.
The minister said the chief minister would lead the anti-coronavirus efforts through dedicated provincial task force constituted for the purpose under his chairmanship.
He said despite an emphasis on tourism and sports activities, the government had decided to postpone the Derajat Festival scheduled for March 21-23 in Dera Ismail Khan.
Mr Jhagra urged the people to voluntarily postpone all private gatherings, including marriage ceremonies and cultural and other events.
He, however, added that the government would monitor the situation on a daily basis and would decide about enforcement at a later stage.
The minister said the district administration would proactively interact with the organisers of all kinds of private gatherings to convince them to postpone the events in ‘public interest’. He said the government had also imposed a temporary ban on the visitors’ entry to jails to avoid the spread of infection.
Mr Jhagra said the people would be informed about the situation only through the platform of the health minister, adviser on information, health secretary and director general.
“The public is urged to only focus on information provided through this official platform,” he said.
The minister said the government had set up a dedicated helpline 1700 working from 9am to 9pm without break and would continue to do so to interact with the people directly.
He said the cabinet considered all aspects of the coronavirus problem, especially that a successful model to counter it and save the people from it through social distancing and precautionary measures.
“We are doing this proactively at a much earlier stage of the virus spread,” he said, adding that the province has thus far reported 27 suspected cases of coronavirus.
The minister added that 24 suspected cases tested negative, while three were being investigated.
Meanwhile, the elementary and secondary education department issued a notification later announcing the postponement of the Secondary School Certificate annual examination and closure of all schools with an immediate effect.
The notification said all schools with boarding facilities should contact parents and guardians of children and ensure the students’ return to homes within the next couple of days.
The higher education department also issued a notification ordering the closure of colleges and universities and their hostels across the province.
Students on the University of Peshawar campus told Dawn that the varsity administration got the hostels vacated and students left for home.
Earlier, the Private Schools Regulatory Authority notified the closure of all private educational institutions for 15 days.
A statement issued by the provincial assembly said the speaker of the assembly also extended the adjournment of the house until March 30.
The assembly session was scheduled to take place on March 16.
Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2020