ISLAMABAD: Despite the emergence of new coronavirus infections at campuses around the country, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Tuesday unanimously decided to reopen primary schools from Wednesday after a six-month hiatus.
Education institutions were closed down in March as part of measures taken to curtail the pandemic. Earlier this month, the government had allowed the “phased” reopening of all educational institutions from September 15, starting with universities.
Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood said on Tuesday that 171,436 coronavirus tests had been carried out in educational institutions since their reopening, of which only 1,248 came out positive.
“Keeping in view this data, it has been decided to resume primary level classes,” Mehmood told reporters, saying action would be taken against educational institutions that violated standard operating procedures.
He said the decision to resume primary-level classes was taken after consulting all federating units, including Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).
“The government took the decision after observing a meagre 0.8 percent positive rate after reopening educational institutes,” the minister said, adding that the authorities will continue to monitor the situation and any carelessness in the implementation of the guidelines will be dealt with sternly.
Mahmood further assured the parents that the government took the step after meticulous research and inspection.
According to SOPs issued by the government, masks had been made mandatory for all teachers and students, while educational institutions were required to ensure the availability of sensitizers at their entrances.
As many as 973 students tested positive for Covid-19 in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab provinces after educational institutions resumed classes in different phases starting from September 15. Of this, 16 more cases of novel coronavirus at educational institutions of Balochistan on Wednesday. The he number of total cases reported at the educational institutions of the province now stands at 541.
According to province-wise details, as many as 56,299 Covid-19 tests were conducted at government and private schools across Sindh, Education Minister Saeed Ghani said on Tuesday.
So far, 40,414 samples have been taken at government schools, out of which 217 came back positive, whereas 86 positive cases emerged when 15,885 tests were conducted at private schools, he disclosed.
Ghani said that a total of 303 samples were declared positive, which is 0.75 per cent of the total samples taken for Covid-19. Expressing satisfaction over the implementation of SOPs at schools, he said that he, along with the education secretary and other officials of the department, have been visiting schools and monitoring the situation.
“Our main focus is to peddle awareness about precautions among parents,” the minister said, adding that they have asked parents to visit schools of their children to examine the conditions there and pick and drop their children themselves to keep the virus at bay.
Balochistan health officials detected 12 more cases of novel coronavirus at educational institutions on Tuesday and with the latest detection of the Covid-19 cases, the number of total cases reported at the educational institutions of the province now stands at 525.
The health department has conducted 5,659 tests so far to monitor the virus in schools and other educational institutions. Spokesperson of Balochistan government, Liaquat Shahwani, earlier said that primary schools in the province will remain closed for 15 more days. He said the decision of delaying the reopening of primary schools in the province has been taken after a spike in coronavirus cases.
Meanwhile, as many as 145 students tested positive for the coronavirus at public and private schools in Punjab, according to the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department. A spokesperson for the department said that 70,750 students were tested for Covid-19 at educational institutions after they reopened on September 15, out of whom 145 turned out to be positive.
Of the total tests, 63,339 were conducted at government schools while 7,411 at private schools, he said. One classroom of nine educational institutes while more than one classroom of five others were sealed for flouting the government-prescribed standard operating procedures (SOPs) between September 15 and September 28.