Over 700 virus cases in 24 hours seen after a month

Updated 19 Sep 2020

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A worker checks body temperature of student at a school in Islamabad on September 15. — AP
A worker checks body temperature of student at a school in Islamabad on September 15. — AP

ISLAMABAD: As the country recorded more than 750 Covid-19 positive cases after a gap of one month, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Friday said that 13 educational institutions were closed down during the last 24 hours for flouting health guidelines and standards operating procedures (PSOs).

“In last 24 hours, 13 educational institutions have been closed across Pakistan due to non-compliance of health guidelines and protocols and disease prevalence. Ten educational institutions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and three in Sindh have been closed,” said a brief statement issued by the NCOC.

After a gap of six months, the educational institutions were reopened on Sept 15 in phases, with the opening of universities, colleges and high schools (9th and 10th classes) in the first phase, after a decision taken by the federal and provincial education ministers.

They had decided that from Sept 23, classes from six to eight will be allowed to resume, but the decision faced a setback on Friday when Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani announced that resumption of school classes in the second phase would be delayed by a week in the province after schools were found flouting the health guidelines and SOPs.

Addressing a press conference in Karachi, Mr Ghani said the Sindh government realised the academic losses suffered by students due to closure of educational institutions, but stressed that their health could not be compromised to compensate for the loss of learning. He said that despite government’s efforts to get the SOPs and health guidelines implemented, a lot of flaws and violations had been seen. Therefore, he said, the provincial government was delaying the second phase of resuming grade 6-8 classes, added that it would now be postponed to Sept 28. The decision could be reviewed if there was an improvement, he added.

Mr Ghani said that some private schools had made excellent arrangements to implement the SOPs and violations were seen in some government-run schools and colleges.

In response to the Sindh government’s announcement, federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, who headed the Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) on Sept 8, which had decided to reopen the educational institutions in phases from Sept 15 (universities, colleges and high schools), from Sep 23 (class six to eight) and from Sept 30 (primary schools), said in a tweet: “There is no change regarding the timetable announced earlier after Inter-provincial meeting of education ministers. We will meet in the NCOC on 22nd [September] to decide finally but if the current trend remains, no reason to postpone 6 to 8 [classes] opening on 23rd September.”

Speaking to Dawn, Mr Mahmood said that it would have been better if the Sindh government had consulted other stakeholders, including the federal government and IPEMC forum, before announcing the decision.

“So far, we [provinces and federal government] took all decision with consensus regarding educational institutions. They [Sindh] should have consulted with others,” he said, adding that so far, as per reports of tests conducted by the NCOC, the situation was satisfactory and there was no reason for immediate closure of educational institutions and delaying the reopening in the second phase.

Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani visited the NCOC on Friday. He was briefed on the overall disease prevalence and specific issues in his province. According to the NCOC, CM Alyani said his government would increase the number of tests to contain Covid-19.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2020