WHO pushes for schools’ closure to contain coronavirus

Published November 17, 2020
In this Sept 30 file photo, students study at a primary school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. — Sirajuddin
In this Sept 30 file photo, students study at a primary school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. — Sirajuddin

PESHAWAR: Declaring educational institutions a major source of the coronavirus transmission in general population, the World Health Organisation has expressed concern about the government’s failure to decide about school closures in light of the growing Covid-19 incidence in the country.

The WHO representatives based in Islamabad told Dawn that the Covid-19 positivity in general population would increase if the educational institutions saw more and more staff members and students test positive for the virus.

They said schools needed to be closed to decrease the incidence of coronavirus incidence as most of the infected cases reported in educational institutions were young and were safe from complications but were infection carriers and had the potential to affect people in their families and communities.

“The Covid-19 positivity rate among students and employees of educational institutions in the country is continuing to increase. The health department recorded 1.12 per cent positivity in schools on Oct 16 when the random testing began but it reached two per cent on Nov 16 (Monday) raining an alarm as schools are a source of escalating the infection to the families,” a WHO official told Dawn.

Says educational institutions major source of Covid-19 transmission in general population

Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded four coronavirus-related deaths and 245 new cases on Monday, revealed a health department report. The report said 1,315 people had so far died of the virus in the province, while 42,615 residents had been infected with it.

It added that 1,881 Covid-19 cases had been reported in schools since the middle of Oct and the number of cases was increasing daily.

The WHO officials told Dawn that they called for the imposition of lockdown to stem the spread of the infection and schools should also be closed without delay. They said there was a clustering of cases, which could be contained by lockdown only.

The officials said the level of virus positivity rate had increased from one per cent to almost two per cent, which was a dangerous development after the start of the second wave in the country.

They said KP witnessed 10 people dying of Covid-19 from Nov 1 to Nov 7 but the Nov 8-16 period recorded 26 such deaths. The officials said the virus incidence and deaths was on the rise in the province.

They said the areas, which were reporting most of the cases, should be under complete lockdown, while standard operating procedure for Covid-19 should be strictly enforced to prevent the spread of the infection.

The WHO officials said there was ‘clear’ evidence that the districts recording most cases in schools had higher virus incidence in general population.

They added that those districts also had the Covid-19 hotspots in the first wave and that the situation was no different in the second wave of the infection, which was more dangerous than the previous one.

In a report, the WHO said three districts of KP, including Peshawar, Abbottabad and Swat, were among the 15 highly-infected areas of the country.

It added that those districts had recorded most Covid-19 related deaths and cases in the first wave as well.

The UN agency said the admission of patients to government hospitals due to Covid-19 had reached 221 on Monday against 99 recorded a week ago.

It said all indicators pointed towards a situation, where number of cases, deaths and hospitalisation had surged compared to the last week and therefore, the province needed to strictly follow precautionary measures against the virus.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2020

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