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Schools’ closure decision after Covid data review

January 18, 2022
Schools’ closure decision after Covid data review

Islamabad: While considering tighter restrictions to fight the fifth coronavirus wave driven by the Omicron variant, the National Command and Operation Centre, the country's top body overseeing the pandemic response, on Monday announced that it would decide about the proposed closure of educational institutions only after thoroughly examining the incidence. It, however, didn't disclose how much time it would require to take that decision.

“Decision about education institutions will be taken on data of positive cases of various institutions for which massive testing in educational institutions is being carried out,” read a statement issued after the NCOC meeting, which was chaired by federal planning minister Asad Umar and national coordinator Major-General Muhammad Zafar Iqbal here and attended by special assistant to the prime minister on health Dr Faisal Sultan and provincial health and education ministers virtually.

During the last 24 hours, the country recorded 4,340 new COVID-19 cases, up from 4,027 a day ago, with Sindh and Punjab leading the list with 2,670 and 1,131 cases, respectively. The overall national positivity rate was 8.7 per cent.

The NCOC, whose meeting was called in light of an alarming spike in the nationwide COVID-19 incidence, discussed the epidemic curve chart data, national vaccine strategy and disease prevalence across the country, and decided about the enforcement of new protocols in cities with a 10 per cent and above positivity rate.

It said a massive COVID-19 testing drive was being carried out in educational institutions to gather data. The ministers informed the forum about the steps being taken by their respective governments for the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions and standard operating procedures in wake of the spike in coronavirus cases. They also discussed global and regional trends of the Omicron variant.

“Keeping in view [the] new disease prevalence, a fresh set of NPIs was presented and discussed with provinces," the NCOC said, adding that the provincial governments will enforce the new interventions during the next 48 hours in consultation with stakeholders. During the meeting, Punjab health minister Yasmin Rashid said the coronavirus-related situation in the province was under control.

She opposed the closure of educational institutions and said 85 per cent of students in the province were fully vaccinated against the virus. The minister also disclosed that 57 per cent of Punjab's population had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

While urging people to strictly follow SOPs to prevent the virus, she said the government was taking all possible measures to stem the spread of the infection, especially the Omicron variant. Earlier, Punjab education minister Murad Raas had recommended 50 per cent attendance in schools for students aged below 12 years.