Monday Jan 17 2022
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Web Desk

Decision on schools' closure only after checking positivity rates: NCOC

By ,
Web Desk

  • NCOC to first look at positivity rates and then make decision on schools' closure.
  • Forum says provinces to enforce new NPIs in 48 hours after consultations.
  • Pakistan detects 4,340 new COVID cases in last 24 hours.

ISLAMABAD: Uncertainty prevailed for parents and students as the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) did not make a decision after its Monday meeting on whether schools across the country will be closed or not, saying it will first look at the data of positivity rates of various institutions.

The NCOC had called a meeting of the provincial health and education ministers today to take decisions on coronavirus restrictions, including schools' closure, amid a rapid increase in COVID-19 infections.

"Decision about education institutions will be taken on data of positive cases of various institutions for which massive testing in education institutions is being carried out," the NCOC said in a brief statement issued after the meeting concluded.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and National Coordinator Maj General Muhammad Zafar Iqbal chaired the NCOC session, while Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan attended it virtually.

Provincial health and education ministers also joined the meeting virtually and told NCOC about the steps being taken for the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), and COVID-19 SOPs in wake of a spike in coronavirus cases.

The meeting's participants also discussed global and regional trends of the Omicron variant, the statement said.

The statement said the participants of the meeting discussed a new set of NPIs keeping in view the disease prevalence, following which, it was decided that the NPIs will be enforced by the provinces in the next 48 hours after consultative process with all stakeholders.

Situation in Punjab under control: minister

During the meeting, Punjab health minister Dr Yasmin Rashid briefed the forum on the progress of the vaccination process in the province.

She said that 85% of the students of the schools and colleges of Punjab have been fully vaccinated and the COVID-19 situation in the province is under control.

Dr Rashid informed the meeting that besides the students, 46 million people, which constitutes 57% of Punjab's population, have been fully vaccinated.

"A total of 14 million people have been inoculated during the Reach Every Door vaccination drive," she said.

She further stated that the second phase of the door-to-door vaccination drive will be continued till January 31.

The minister, while urging the people to strictly adhere to the SOPs, said that the health department is making efforts to deal with the intensity of the Omicron variant.

What does Punjab have to say on schools' closure?

Shortly before the NCOC meeting started, Punjab health minister Yasmin Rashid had said that they do not favour the closure of schools.

"We don't want the schools shut since education has already suffered enough,” Rashid said.

She said that Punjab has vaccinated 80% of its students in schools and colleges.

Talking about the fast approaching Pakistan Super League 2022, the minister said NCOC is to decide on whether it will allow spectators at the venues or not.

Schools will not be closed in Sindh

The Sindh government had on Saturday decided that schools will not be closed and the educational activities will continue in the province despite an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases.

The decision was taken in a meeting of the Provincial Task Force chaired by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah at the CM House.

'Pressure on hospitals can increase any time'

Moreover, Pakistan Medical Association Secretary General Dr Qaiser Sajjad had said that with the rapid spread of Omicron in the country and especially in Karachi, the pressure on hospitals can increase at any time.

"We weren't strict in the last four waves of coronavirus, but we have to be strict this time," Dr Sajjad said, adding that marriage halls and restaurants will have to be closed and gatherings restricted.

While the entire country has been badly hit by the fifth wave of coronavirus, the situation in Karachi is growing graver with every passing day as the positivity ratio of the city climbed close to 40% a day earlier, with a further rise expected this week.

What is the current status of COVID-19 in Pakistan?

Meanwhile, as many as 4,340 new COVID-19 cases in Pakistan pushed the active cases to 35,884 in the last 24 hours, while seven deaths pushed the death toll to 29,019, the NCOC's data showed Monday morning.

The positivity ratio was detected at 8.71% after 49,809 tests were conducted and the overall cases have reached 1.328 million, while the recoveries stand at 1.26 million.