A teacher checks the body temperature of students at a government school in Lahore on September 15, 2020 after the educational institutes were reopened nearly six months after the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)

COVID-19 2nd wave: Pakistan to decide on schools’ closure on November 5

  • Government portal on Monday reported highest rise in coronavirus cases in a single day since July 26, with 1,123 new infections
  • PM Khan to chair a meeting of National Coordination Committee today to decide on new measures and restrictions

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has called a meeting of all provincial education ministers on Thursday, November 5, to discuss the possibility of closing down schools and universities, and announcing early winter holidays, as the country grapples with a second wave of the coronavirus, local media reported on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Pakistani minister for education said the government had not yet made a decision to close schools and universities. Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to chair a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) today to discuss new measures and restrictions to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“Rumours again afloat regarding school closures,” education minister Shafqat Mahmood said in a tweet. “It is again clarified that educational institutions are NOT being closed. We will continue to monitor the situation as health of the students, teachers and staff is very important but at the moment no such decision has been made.”

On Monday, a government portal reported Pakistan’s highest rise in coronavirus cases in a single day since July 26, with 1,123 new infections recorded, taking the country’s total infections to 335,093. On Tuesday, the portal showed 336,260 total infections and 6,849 deaths.

Last week, Pakistan’s de facto health minister, Dr. Faisal Sultan, announced that the second wave of coronavirus had arrived and new restrictions and lockdowns were ‘inevitable.’

“NCOC discussed additional measures today to control the rising spread of Covid19,” planning minister Asad Umar tweeted on Monday, referring to the National Command and Control Center, which he heads. “Need to take immediate measures which have the most impact on disease spread without curtailing economic activity.”

Prime Minister Khan has repeatedly said the country would need to learn to “live with” the virus to avert pushing tens of millions living on daily wages into destitution.

Pakistan began to lift its lockdown, imposed in March, on May 9, about two weeks before the Eid Al-Fitr festival that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and is celebrated with congregation prayers, family gatherings and feasting. Transport and most businesses re-opened but cinemas, theaters and schools remain closed.

In August, the government announced that virtually all sectors shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus would be reopened that month, other than schools and marriage halls, which opened in September. Since then, there has been a slow uptick in infection numbers.

Last week, the NCOC made it mandatory for residents to wear masks in public places and ordered all business centers, wedding halls, eateries and shopping centers to close shop by 10 pm.

The NCOC’s has also set up a helpline where citizens can notify authorities if members of the public break COVID-19 rules.