KARACHI: The Minister for Health and Population Welfare Sindh, Dr Azra Pechuho, attended a National Command Operation Center (NCOC) meeting via video-link, reviewing the decision to reopen the education sector in light of the rising cases of COVID-19 in Pakistan.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health in Sindh Assembly, Qasim Siraj Soomro, Secretary Health, Dr Kazim Jatoi, as well as other health officers from the Sindh Health Department, were also in attendance.
It was discussed in the meeting that the decision to reopen schools in early January was taken due to there being a downward trend in positive COVID-19 cases in Pakistan. Now, however, the average rate of infection has reached 4.5%.
There are also significant increases in hospital admissions throughout the country, and the most rise in cases has been recorded in Punjab, KP and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood recommended in the meeting that schools in seven cities be closed for two weeks, from the 15th of March, in order to curb the spread of the infection.
The cities with the highest record of COVID-19 positive cases are Lahore, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujrat and Faisalabad.
The NCOC meeting debated the link between schools reopening and the rise in COVID-19 infections. It was concluded that since the education sector operates on a national scale and involves the highest percentage of Pakistan’s population, it is imperative that its impact on rates of infection be evaluated.
Dr Azra Pechuho agreeing with Special Assistant to the PM on National Health Services, Faisal Sultan, said that the effect of students’ education for prolonged periods of time would be adverse. The moderate and more effective step is to stagger the population present in schools at any one time (50% occupancy), to test the students, faculty and staff for COVID-19 regularly, and to vaccinate the most vulnerable demographics of the population as rapidly as possible.
Minister for Health and Population Welfare Sindh also said that the province is still faring well in regards to low rates of infection and that the Expo Center in Karachi that was being used as an isolation ward has been put on standby as there are fewer patients who require its services currently.
Dr Azra Pechuho further suggested that all those travelling from abroad, especially the UK and America, should be told to quarantine and isolate at home for two weeks as this will help reduce the number of positive cases throughout the country.