ISLAMABAD: Pakistan witnessed a decline in the daily count of Covid-19 cases as less than 4,000 patients were reported for the first time in 10 days.
On the other hand, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Tuesday decided to start matriculation and intermediate classes from April 19 and deferred resumption of classes 1 to 8 in most affected areas till April 28.
"Education/health ministers of Pakistan unanimously made following decisions at NCOC today: 1) In districts affected by corona classes from 1 till 8th will remain closed till 28th April. 2) In these districts classes 9th till 12th will resume in a staggered manner from April 19th," federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood tweeted.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Mahmood said the NCOC meeting took up the opening of educational institutions that had been closed till April 11 and also discussed the schedule of exams for matric, intermediate, O, and A levels. "During the meeting, it was decided that classes for grades 1 to 8 in districts which are severely affected by the pandemic will not be held till April 28," he said.
It is worth mentioning that the minister had on March 10 said that the cities that were most affected by the virus were Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Lahore, Gujrat, Multan, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Islamabad, Muzaffarabad, and Peshawar. However, later some more districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were added to the list. Mr Mahmood said the Punjab education minister informed the meeting that 13 districts in the province had been affected by the virus and, therefore, it was decided not to resume classes there for grades 1 to 8 till April 28.
"The provinces will decide which areas were most affected and where the decision needs to be implemented. A review meeting will be held on April 28," he added.
The minister said classes for grades 9,10,11 and 12 would be allowed to resume from April 19 in the affected areas under strict standard operating procedures (SOPs). He, however, said universities in the affected districts would remain closed and classes would be conducted online. "Otherwise, universities will function as usual," he said.
Commenting on the upcoming examinations, the minister said approximately four million students across the country were scheduled to appear in local board exams."It was decided that exams for grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 will be held, but since they are our own boards, the exams will be pushed to the third week of May,` he added.
Mr Mahmood said all education and health ministers suggested that the exams should go ahead.
"Last year we had promoted students on the basis of their previous year`s performance but now we do not have such an option. The situation for classes 1 to 8 will be reviewed on April 28," he said. About Cambridge exams, the minister said that while there were four million students in Pakistan, only 85,000 were students of O and A levels. "Therefore, it has been decided that the exams would go ahead. Moreover, Cambridge has also given assurance that SOPs will be followed.
According to the date-sheet, on April 26, 4,000 students will appear in the exam and almost the same number will appear daily, apart from two days when up to 12,000 students will sit the exam. According to Cambridge, exams are being held in around 80pc countries, including Bangladesh. Therefore, students should not be distracted as exams will be held on time," he said.
It is worth mentioning that exams for O level are scheduled to start from April 26 and those for A level from May 10.
Cases start decreasing According to the NCOC data, as many as 3,953 cases and 103 deaths were reported in a single day. The last time less than 4,000 cases were recorded was on March 24 when 3,946 persons were infected. The data further showed that as of April 6, 432 ventilators were occupied and the number of active cases was 63,102. Moreover, 4,387 patients were admitted to hospitals.
Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar in a tweet said, "Increased restrictions, broader lockdowns & stronger sop enforcement starting to have an effect. Initial signs of positivity slowing. However, due to the momentum of the last 2 weeks patients on critical care & mortality will stay at high levels for some time. Please follow sops & be safe."
In another tweet, he said, "Total vaccinations carried out so far crossed 1 million. More than 76 thousand vaccinations were carried out yesterday. The total number of people registered so far is now over 2 million. 600k health care workers and more than 1.4 million 50 plus. Please register if u are 50 plus. Age limit changes for single-dose vaccine As the single-dose vaccine was being given to people over the age of 80 years to save them from visiting the vaccination centre for the second time, the NCOC has decided to widen the age bracket and make citizens over the age of 70 years eligible for the single-dose Cansino vaccine. It is worth mentioning here that only 60,000 doses of Cansino vaccine have arrived in Pakistan. It is, however, expected that three million more doses will reach by the middle of April."
Besides, the Sindh government is also considering procuring the Cansino vaccine.