PESHAWAR: The health department has ruled out closure of schools as Covid-19 positivity remains just one per cent in educational institutions of Khyber Pakhtunkwa.

A report issued by Public Health Reference Laboratory at Khyber Medical University said that 37 new Omicron patients were detected, making total of the people infected with new variant 145 in the province. It said that the virus was largely prevalent in Peshawar with 70 of the total cases. It added that the infected people included 90 males and 55 females.

A report of health department said that the province recorded 331 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday. The province had reported 200 cases on Tuesday. Two more fatalities, one each in Peshawar and Haripur, were also recorded, it said.

Officials said that the province’s overall positivity was 2.7 per cent and Peshawar had over 10 per cent but the level of infection in schools was about one per cent on the basis of which closure of educational institutions could not be recommended.

KP records two more deaths and 331 new cases of coronavirus

“However, we are starting a campaign on pattern of 15-day measles/rubella vaccination ran in November last year to ensure more vaccination of students. We are working on the strategy to ensure more coverage,” they said.

Officials said that they had decided to conduct more testing in educational institutions and process 1,000 samples on average per day from schools in Peshawar and 500 each in Mardan, Nowshera, Swabi, Charsadda and Dera Ismail Khan to ascertain the severity of the virus among students and take decisions accordingly.

“Less testing doesn’t reflect positivity in schools, therefore, the district health officers in the high-risk districts have been directed to enhance testing to be able to know about the infection and make recommendations. In some areas, schools stay closed due to winter vacations,” they said.

Officials said that under a new strategy, the provinces were instructed by National Command and Operation Centre to furnish separate details about Covid-19 infectivity in educational institutions. They said that next meeting of NCOC was scheduled on Monday but there was no scientific evidence for immediate closure of schools.

They said that educational activities would remain in progress as far as the positivity stayed below 10 per cent.

Officials said that a school would be shut only for three days in case of 10 per cent positivity. They said that NCOC wouldn’t decide closure of schools on the basis of one-day surge in positivity but needed weekly report. “If the infectivity level stays above 10 per cent consecutively, decision would be taken on closing down only those schools where cases are surging,” they added.

They said that during meals/rubella campaign, they achieved 100 per cent target owing to deployment of more staff but the Coviud-19 vaccination suffered because of shortage of vaccinators.

Officials said that health workers could not reach many schools despite intimation by heads of schools to administer second dose of the vaccine, which was overdue. They said that planning was in progress to achieve Covid-19 targets.

They said that 14 million people received first dose of the vaccine and 9.6 million the second dose while 10 million were fully vaccinated in the province. They said that the fully vaccinated people would be persuaded to get booster after completion of six months. “Fully vaccinated persons above 30 years can visit any centre to get booster in view of the Omicron, which is now widespread,” they said.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2022

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