The Punjab government on Wednesday announced that all public and private schools in the province will remain closed from September 28 to October 1 due to the outbreak of conjunctivitis (pinkeye).
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and eyeball. The disease continues to infect and has hit Punjab hard, with state-run hospitals across the province reporting 500-600 patients.
The highest number of infections in the province was reported in Lahore. The alarming surge in cases has had a noticeable impact, as evidenced by emerging reports indicating that the infection is affecting people of all age groups.
A large number of school-going children have been complaining of eye infections, primarily because they are not adhering to precautions at school. There have also been reports that school administrations are allowing students to stay home as soon as they contract the virus and are advising parents to take special care of their children.
Medical experts say pinkeye is spreading rapidly in densely populated cities where people are exposed to unfriendly environments, such as factories, bazaars, markets, and shopping plazas.
In light of the rise in cases, the Punjab School Education Department issued a notification today announcing four-day holidays.
It said all schools would reopen from Monday (Oct 2) and would observe the standard operating procedures issued by the department to curb the disease’s spread.
It directed all chief executive officers in the province to ensure compliance with the order.
Separately, in a video message issued today, interim Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi said the holidays were announced to curb the average spread of the disease, estimating that the move would lead to a 50 per cent reduction in cases.
He said there would be eye inspections for students at educational institutions across the province when they reopened.
Meanwhile, caretaker Punjab Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare Dr Jamal Nasir said eye surgeons in government hospitals across the province were directed to stay alert throughout the day.
He said an ample supply of eye drops was provided to hospitals, adding that special arrangements were made to treat conjunctivitis patients at Rawalpindi’s Holy Family Hospital, Lahore’s Mayo Hospital and Multan’s Nishtar Hospital.