3 more test positive for Covid-19 in sampling of educational institutions in capital

Updated 17 Sep 2020

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Islamabad District Health Officer Dr Zaeem Zia said the administration will keep testing teaching and non-teaching staff and students to isolate people who have contracted Covid-19. — AFP/File
Islamabad District Health Officer Dr Zaeem Zia said the administration will keep testing teaching and non-teaching staff and students to isolate people who have contracted Covid-19. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Another three people have tested positive for Covid-19 out of 5,000 samples taken from public and private educational institutions in the capital so far. Two employees of the city’s largest women’s college were among those diagnosed with the disease, shocking education authorities in the city.

Those who tested positive have been told to isolate for two weeks.

There have been rumours circulating on social media about a large number of positive cases detected at Islamabad’s educational institutions. However, Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) spokesperson Sajid Shah said that residents should not panic, as there is more incorrect information on social media than there is accurate information. He said people should rely on the official website for information.

Islamabad District Health Officer Dr Zaeem Zia said the administration will keep testing teaching and non-teaching staff and students to isolate people who have contracted Covid-19.

He said after confirmation, contact tracing will begin under the Tracking, Testing and Quarantine (TTQ) policy.

He added that since educational institutions have opened in Islamabad, the capital administration has increased testing to ensure Covid-19 does not spread through schools.

More than 5,000 samples taken so far; two employees diagnosed at capital’s largest women’s college

“We have already sealed a medical college, as the Ministry of NHS and National Command and Operations Centre have supported us in the issue. On Sept 15, which was the first day of educational institutions, we collected 987 samples from educational institutions,” Dr Zia said.

He said two people have tested positive at one institution, and one person at another.

“The daily count of [new] cases in Islamabad surged to 40, but has dropped by 50pc in the last few days which means that the chain of cases has been broken. We have been testing teachers and non-teaching staff and students on merit [there are] only 325 positive cases left in the capital,” he said.

Dr Zia said that the positivity rate was once 25pc, but three out of more than 5,000 tests was quite acceptable as the overall positivity rate has dropped to 0.5pc, which is also above the ratio of cases detected in schools.

He said all three patients have been isolated in their homes and suspected patients will continue to be tested.

Mr Shah from the NHS ministry said every student and teacher is checked with a thermal scanner, and there are ample hand sanitisers provided to ensure students keep cleaning their hands.

“Classes have been divided into different sections, due to which around 20 students are sitting in each class. Earlier, there were around 70 students in each class in the federal capital’s model schools,” he said.

He said Minister for Federal Education Shafqat Mehmood is visiting schools to check the implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to limit the spread of Covid-19.

In response to the fact that two employees of Islamabad’s largest women’s college have contracted Covid-19, an official from the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) said: “We will take extra precautions but [will] go ahead with opening educational institutions as planned. These are just two cases in hundreds of institutions.”

“We had a shock, but overall the situation is under control,” the official added.

FDE Director General Zia Batool confirmed that the two employees were diagnosed with Covid-19 on Wednesday.

“We got the college disinfected properly, and a specific portion has been sealed after the employees were sent home to quarantine,” she said.

SOP is being implemented in all public and private institutions in the city, she said.

“Monitoring teams have been visiting institutions, and so far we are very much satisfied with the arrangements the institutions have made,” the DG said.

Before schools opened on Tuesday, three teachers - two at public schools in G-6 and G-7 and one at a private school in H-8 - tested positive for Covid-19 and are in isolation. The three institutions were disinfected before opening their doors to students on Tuesday.

An FDE official said that the employees who were diagnosed on Wednesday were tested for Covid-19 on Tuesday.

He said they had no apparent symptoms of Covid-19, which was why they were allowed to enter the college building.

The official said 32 public institutions were monitored and no deficiencies were found.

FDE employees said the District Health Office and the National Institute of Health carried out random tests of students and staff at five institutions on Wednesday, including the college where two employees tested positive, as well as at Sihala College, Science School, Convent School and Punjab College in Blue Area.

Islamabad has been divided into six zones for the sampling, monitoring and surveillance purposes of public and private educational institutions. Each zone - Urban Areas I and II, Tarnol, Bhara Kahu, Sihala and Nilor - is being headed by an FDE area education officer and a monitoring officer who will supervise and coordinate sampling as well as monitoring and surveillance.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2020