Home Latest News NCOC to Review Positivity Data before Deciding on School Closures

NCOC to Review Positivity Data before Deciding on School Closures

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Twitter

Forum says new set of preventative measures will be implemented by provinces in next 48 hours to curb spread of COVID-19

The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Monday said it requires more time to review the positivity ratio of COVID-19 in educational institutions before deciding whether or not to shut them in a bid to curb the spread of the fifth wave of the pandemic.

Since the coronavirus pandemic first arrived in Pakistan in February 2020, the country has repeatedly opened and shut educational institutions in areas with high incidence of the virus. In September 2021, when the virus was particularly virulent in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces, schools were closed in Islamabad; 15 districts across Punjab; and eight districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The government, in September, allowed all Pakistanis aged 12 and above to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Since then, authorities have stressed on vaccination as a means to avoid further closures, but have not yet established any protocols for children under 12, who do not have the safety net of inoculations against COVID-19.

“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,” read a brief statement issued by the NCOC on Monday following a meeting of provincial educational and health ministers. According to sources who attended the meeting, authorities have been urged to push for the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) and other standard operating procedures (SOPs) to curb the current spike in coronavirus cases, driven by the highly-infectious Omicron variant that was originally identified in South Africa.

“Keeping in view new disease prevalence, fresh set of NPIs was presented and discussed with provinces and new set of NPIs will be implemented by provinces in the next 48 hours after consultative process with all stakeholders,” said the NCOC, though it did not elaborate on what these new NPIs or SOPs would entail. Earlier, the NCOC had urged all provinces to consider restrictions on large public gatherings, including weddings, schools, restaurants and public transport to reduce the spread of the fifth wave of the pandemic.

Despite this, there has been little visible effort to control the current spread of COVID-19. Despite a persistent mask mandate, there is little compliance from the public, and weddings with thousands of guests are the norm, rather than the exception.

In November, when the Omicron variant first started spreading globally, Planning Minister Asad Umar and Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan had warned of the risk posed by the new variant, adding that its arrival to Pakistan was “inevitable” and people should get vaccinated and continue wearing masks to avoid its adverse effects.

On Monday morning, Pakistan reported 4,340 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest in five months.

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