Stricter lockdown restrictions have not been imposed in Karachi and Hyderabad, despite both the cities reporting relatively higher infection rates, as the move is likely to draw a "political backlash," said Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho on Tuesday.
The minister, while addressing a National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) meeting via a video link, added that Covid-19 trends in Sindh were on the rise, but the increase was gradual. "Yesterday, 300 cases were reported in Sindh, and positivity rates in Karachi and Hyderabad were at seven percent and 4.36 percent, [respectively]," she told the meeting that was called to discuss the reopening of schools nationwide.
Briefing the NCOC meeting on school closures in Sindh, Dr Pechuho said that physical classes for grades I-VIII had been suspended in the province. However, on-campus classed for grades IX, X, and XI are being conducted, given that exams are near, the minister added.
Separately, in a statement issued on Tuesday, Sindh Education and Labour Minister Saeed Ghani maintained that the rate of positivity for educational institutes in the province is at 2.6 per cent. Ghani said that on-campus classes for grades IX to XII would continue uninterrupted in Sindh and their exams would be held as scheduled.
With regards to the junior grades, the education minister said that physical classes would resume for them on April 22. However, he added, if there is a rise in Covid-19 infections in any district of the province, the relevant district administration would then take decisions accordingly.
Shortly after the NCOC meeting, Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood had announced that physical classes for grades I-VIII would remain suspended in Covid hotspots across the country and that classes for grades IX to XII would begin from April 19 in a staggered manner. The federal minister had also clarified that while varsities have been asked to defer entrance exams, the A and O Level exams would be held as announced earlier - from May 10 - and local boards would conduct exams after May 24.
Travel restrictions Meanwhile, during the NCOC meeting Dr Pechuho noted that travel restrictions were not being imposed across the country, which was contributing to the rise in the number of infections. She suggested the imposition of strict restrictions on inter-city and inter-provincial travel curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The minister urged the NCOC to consider the suggestion under its Covid-19 prevention schedule. When it was suggested in the meeting that students and teachers also be administered coronavirus vaccines since they too were vulnerable, Pechuho clarified that the vaccine only ensured that the worst of Covid-19 symptoms did not take effect.
"It does not completely prevent the spread of the virus and infected individuals could be infecting people outside school even after vaccination," the minister explained.
She stressed the need for vaccinating persons with co-morbidities and requested the NCOC to consider the suggestion.
"Individuals with chronic comorbidities are at higher risk of being infected with the coronavirus and thus, are an extremely vulnerable section of society who must be catered to at the earliest," she said.