Schools reopening announced as virus cases fall in 2nd wave

ISLAMABAD – Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) following the directives of Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) on Monday announced phase-wise re-opening of educational institutions across the country from January 18.

The IPEMC meeting decided to postpone the board exams in the months of May-June. However, Federal Minister Shafqat Mahmood stressed that no one will be promoted this year without exams. 

The education minister chaired the IPEMC meeting here to review the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation before re-opening of the educational institutions.

All provincial education ministers through video link attended the meeting. The meeting decided to re-open the educational institutions from primary to university level for academic activities in three phases.

According to the decision taken at the meeting, educational institutions will resume the academic activities from grade 09 to 12 from January 18, 2021. In the second phase educational activities from grade-I to 9 will resume from January 25.

The IPEMC decided that all universities and higher educational institutions (HEIs) would open from February 1. The meeting also announced that the schools administrations would resume their duties from January 11.

Earlier, the IPEMC had announced re-opening of all educational activities from January 11, 2021.

Later, Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on NHS Dr. Faisal Sultan informed the media about the decisions were taken in the IPEMC.

Shafqat Mahmood said that educational institutions could start online learning from January 11, while board examinations would be held in the months of May and June. 

He said that classes of grade 9th, 10th 11th and 12th would start from January 18, while educational institutions from primary to 8th will be opened from January 25 and HEIs will be opened from February 1st.

Shafqat Mahmood also said that the health situation following the COVID-19 spread would be reviewed again on January 14-15 in the next meeting of IPEMC. 

No one will be promoted this year without exams

The minister added that children’s health was on top priority while taking the decision of re-opening the educational institutions. Later, in his social media message, the federal education minister also said that this year no promotion to next grade would be done without exams.

The minister said, “All board exams have been postponed to May-June. Let me emphasize that this year nobody will be promoted without exams”.

Meanwhile, SAPM on NHS Dr. Faisal Sultan said that intensity of the second wave of COVID-19 has paused largely and closure of educational institutions has reduced the number of virus cases in the country.

He said that the government has taken strict measures to control the COVID-19 virus spread, which included closure of the educational institutions. He also said that other steps included implementation of health SOPs in large gatherings, marriage halls and banning inside dining in restaurants, which reduced cases.  

Later, about examinations in medical colleges the SAPM on NHS in his social media message said that an important meeting about examinations in medical colleges has been called today in which situation will be reviewed from all aspects.

On the other side, All Pakistan Private Schools Federation in a press briefing though welcomed the re-opening of the educational intuitions, however, also urged to open all schools on the same date instead of opening in phases.

President (APSF) Kashif Mirza said that closure of 10000 educational institutions and unemployment of 700000 teachers and staff. He also demanded that the government should announce a special relief package for schools as they suffered financial losses.

APSF, however, announced that the annual academic session would start from the month of April because delay in the new academic session will lead to educational loss of students.

‘Downward trend’

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Faisal Sultan said Monday that the country was witnessing downward trend in reporting fresh corona cases in second wave mainly due to timely decision of closure of educational institutions.

In a media briefing, Dr Faisal said that strict preventive measures were adopted to avoid further spread of coronavirus in the country related with the closure of educational institutions besides fully implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

He added the government had tried its level best to ensure adopting safety measures to protect citizens in order to contain the disease like imposing ban on public gatherings, marriages halls and restaurants and restriction on use of dining places of restaurants that resulted decrease in number of corona cases.

He said that the government had adopted effective strategy to combat COVOD-19 for reduction in corona cases in the country. He said that the government had taken strict measures for prompt response to the disease.

He added team at National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) was doing efficient work against the disease. He said that the main focus of the strategy was to control the disease on one hand and maintaining business activities on the other hand. He said that all concerned federal and provincial and public and private institutions were playing remarkable role under NCOC against the disease.

Dr Faisal acknowledged the role of frontline health workers including doctors and nurses. He said that all possible measures will be adopted to control COVID-19 to avoid further load on already burdened health system of the country. He said that strategies are made to control corona keeping in view the global information, focusing on data with integration of local data in a scientific way. He added input from concerned stakeholders was also considered to avoid any missing aspect.

He added several local level administrative decisions were made to control the disease. He advised the citizens to continue following the social distancing, use of mask and other precautionary measures to stop increasing local transmission of COVID-19 in the country.

39 deaths and 1,895 new infections

Total active COVID-19 cases across the country on Monday reached 35,722 with 1,895 more people tested positive for the deadly virus and 1,797 corona patients recovered during the last 24 hours.

According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), about 39 corona patients, 35 under treatment in hospitals and four at their homes or quarantines, died on Sunday. Most of the deaths occurred in Sindh followed by the Punjab. Out of 39, 28 patients died on ventilators.

No COVID affected person was on ventilator in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) while 308 ventilators were occupied elsewhere in Pakistan.

The maximum ventilators were occupied in Multan (42 percent), Islamabad Capital Territory (42 percent), Peshawar (32 percent) and Lahore (35 percent).

The oxygen beds (oxygen providing facility other than ventilator as per the patient’s medical requirement) were also occupied in four cities, including ICT (33 percent), Karachi (32 percent), Peshawar (58 percent) and Multan (33 percent).

Some 30,139 tests were conducted across the country on Sunday, including 11,473 in Sindh, 10,073 in Punjab, 5,104 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 2,560 in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), 485 in Balochistan, 188 in GB, and 256 in AJK.

Around 442,457 patients have recovered from the disease so far across Pakistan making it a significant count with over 86 percent recovery ratio.

Since the pandemic outbreak, a total of 488,529 corona positive cases have been detected so far, including AJK 8,357, Balochistan 18,247, GB 4,867, ICT 38,263, KP 59,484, Punjab 140,714 and Sindh 218,597.

About 10,350 deaths have been recorded in the country since the eruption of the contagion. Some 3,611 perished in Sindh, 17 of them died on Sunday – 15 in hospitals and two out of the hospital.

Out of total 4,124 deaths in Punjab, 15 patients died in past 24 hours – 13 in hospitals and two out of hospital. About 1,675 corona patients have died in KP so far. Three of them in hospitals on Sunday, 428 in ICT with Four in hospitals on Sunday, 185 in Balochistan, 101 in GB, and 226 in AJK succumbed to the deadly virus. A total of 6,849,867 corona tests have been conducted so far, while 626 hospitals are equipped with COVID facilities. Some 2,747 corona patients were admitted in hospitals across the country as on date.

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