Friday September 24, 2021

Millions return to school in Pakistan in first phase

September 16, 2020


ISLAMABAD: Mask-clad students marched through school halls after more than six months, as educational institutions began to reopen in phases on Tuesday, which was described by British High Commissioner Christian Turner as “the largest return to school in the world”.

“The largest return to school in the world — this morning 50 million Pakistani children get back to learning,” Turner said in a tweet.

The reopening came amid warnings from the education minister to seal schools that fail to adhere to safety protocols as the country recorded 404 more Covid-19 cases in a 24-hour-period. Active infections now tally 5,774. Six more people succumbed to the disease, according to official data

“Let us welcome our children and students on the first day of opening of educational institutions,” said Dr Faisal Sultan, who has been leading efforts against Covid-19 from the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).

“Please don’t forget basic protective steps. Masks, reduced density in classes, hand hygiene. Parents, school administrators, teachers, students — all together,” Dr Sultan said in a tweet.

According to the NCOC, a special monitoring mechanism has been devised to ensure implementation of protocols agreed with all stake holders. Provincial and district administrations’ monitoring teams across Pakistan would ensure implementation of health standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“In case of violation of any protocols, provincial and district administrations are empowered to close or fine subject institution,” it added. It said wearing of face masks — even of normal cloth — and social distancing and staggering times are the “most important” steps to ensure students’ health and safety.

Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training, Shafqat Mehmood warned heads of educational institutions that those institutions failing to comply with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) would be closed.

A “major educational institution” was sealed in the federal capital after 26 Covid-19 cases were reported in the institute, the NCOC said. “Due to targeted testing, 16 cases were reported from the subject institution,” it added. Contact tracing would be followed to ensure containment of Covid cases, the NCOC said. Authorities said the campus was a private medical university.

In another development, marriage halls in the country were also slated to reopen on Tuesday, Geo News reported. Events will not be allowed to continue beyond 10pm.

Meanwhile, planning minister Asad Umar said the government’s ability to slow down the Covid-19 pandemic “early” benefitted the country’s economy in terms of growth in the large-scale manufacturing sector.

He termed the gain a “dividend of controlling Covid early”, which paid off Pakistan “on the economic side also, as V shaped recovery gets confirmed”. “Large scale manufacturing numbers for July show more than 9 per cent growth over June and more than 5 per cent growth vs July 2019,” Umar said in a Twitter post.

In a parallel development, the Asian Development Bank — which, in June, had approved a $500-million loan to Pakistan as part of the CARES Programme — said in a report released Tuesday the country could see 2021 economic recovery if Covid-19 subsided and structural reforms resumed.