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School closure: Shafqat Mahmood issues clarification as Pakistan’s coronavirus cases rise

school-closure:-shafqat-mahmood-issues-clarification-as-pakistan’s-coronavirus-cases-rise
Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training, Shafqat Mahmood addressing a press conference in Islamabad. — APP/Files 

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood on Monday clarified that schools and educational institutions across Pakistan are not closing despite a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.

“Rumours again afloat regarding school closures. It is again clarified that educational institutions are NOT being closed,” he announced via a tweet.

He stated that the government will continue to monitor the health of students, teachers and school staff “but at the moment no such decision (about closing schools or educational institutions) has been made”.

Mahmood’s tweet comes a day after Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas also dismissed speculation that schools across the province were not being closed due to rising cases of the novel virus.

“Keeping a very close watch on COVID 19 cases in Schools of Punjab. Random testing is being done continuously. There is a slight increase in numbers but nothing alarming. Situation being analysed on daily basis. There is NO plan to close Schools as of right now. Please follow SOPs,” he had tweeted.

Coronavirus: second lockdown ‘inevitable’ as officials fear Pakistan running out of options

Earlier, Director of General Health Services Islamabad Dr Hassan Orooj spoke to Geo.tv, saying that the public is not following COVID-19 SOPs, adding that a second lockdown now seems “inevitable”.

Pakistan imposed a countrywide lockdown on March 24, but began easing it 21 days later, even as COVID-19 cases were surging in the country. The deadly virus reached its peak in mid-June, when over 6,000 infections were recorded in a day with over 100 deaths.

Still, Prime Minister Imran Khan, who frequently spoke against strict lockdowns stressing the economic impact on daily wagers, announced the reopening of industrial and commercial sectors in phases with government-mandated health guidelines.

The country nonetheless saw a sharp decrease in COVID-19 cases in August, with as few as 213 new cases reported on August 30. Following this, the government decided to allow educational institutes to reopen from mid-September.

By October, infections were on the rise again.

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