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Shafqat Mahmood says education ministers to discuss coronavirus situation on Monday

Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood. — PID/File

An important meeting will be held on Monday between provincial education ministers to discuss the latest coronavirus situation in the country, Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood said on Saturday.

“As stated before, the health of our students is our number one priority,” he said.

The news came as 2,165 cases were reported in Pakistan over the last 24 hours, with 17 people dying from the virus.

The total cases in Pakistan as of Saturday were 354,461, with total deaths at 7,109.

There are currently 24,938 active cases in the country, of which 1,316 are said by the national dashboard to be critical — with 97 on ventilators.

The announcement also comes in the backdrop of a recommendation by the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) for “early and extended winter vacations” due to the rising positivity ratio being reported from educational institutes.

The apex body tasked with handling the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic had announced earlier that Mahmood will chair a special session with provincial education ministers on November 16 where the recommendation will be put forward.

It also said that the meeting of the ministers will also “assess and review the positivity ratio prevailing in educational institutions”.

The NCOC decided to put forward the recommendation after Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar chaired a session of the body that reviewed the “epidemic curve data and disease prevalence in the country including education sector”.

According to a statement, the NCOC was informed about the “increasing positivity ratio in educational institutions” and the need to stop the trend. The body also shared that it will share with the provinces its recommendations, after “consultative discussions”, for “consequent decision and enforcement”.

“The forum, taking into account rising positivity ratio, suggested for an early and extended winter vacations to reduce impact of disease spread and ensure safety and health of students,” said the NCOC statement.

Education ministers decide to keep schools open

In a meeting last week, Pakistan had decided to keep the schools open in the country.

The meeting was presided by Mahmood and was attended by his provincial counterparts as well.

The decision was made unanimously by all provincial education ministers after health ministry officials briefed the participants of the online meeting on Pakistan’s coronavirus situation.

The meeting had also ruled that there would be no winter holidays in Punjab, while a decision on whether there would minimal number of winter holidays or none at all would depend on geography of the respective provinces.

The meeting’s participants had agreed at the time that in the current situation, there was no need to close educational institutes. However, coronavirus has been spreading rapidly since, with the number of new cases rising sharply.

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