PHOTO: AFP

Decision on school closure delayed

Covid positivity rate crosses 5% in several districts


ADNAN LODHI August 26, 2021
LAHORE:

The coronavirus positivity rate has crossed five percent in several cities of Punjab but the government is undecided about closing the schools in the province.

Cases of coronavirus have also been reported among schoolchildren and teachers in various cities.

Despite the developments, the Punjab government has discontinued Covid-19 tests in schools, increasing the sense of concern among the parents of the students.

The students, parents, and teachers were awaiting a decision about closing the schools in the affected districts but a meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) scheduled for Wednesday was cancelled.

According to the primary and secondary healthcare department, a coronavirus positivity rate of 6.6% was recorded in Punjab on Wednesday.

The rate in Lahore was 9.9%, Faisalabad 6.4%, Multan 6%, Bahawalpur 5.3%, and Rawalpindi 5.2%. During the previous wave of the pandemic, the Punjab government closed educational institutions in all districts where the ratio of positive diagnostic test results was over 5%.

However, no such step has been taken during the fourth wave of coronavirus despite the ratio having crossed the mark in several districts.

Especially the situation in Lahore is causing alarm as 748 new coronavirus cases were reported in the district in a day. Covif-19 patients among students have also been reported in the city. A private school in the provincial capital was sealed last week by the local administration after a grade 10 student was found suffering from coronavirus.

A schoolteacher in the provincial capital also tested positive for the infection on Wednesday.

The provincial government issued a notification last month, instructing schoolteachers to get vaccinated and warning staff members would not be allowed to enter the schools without vaccination.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, the headmaster of a government school said, the situation was serious in the more affected districts, but the authorities had stopped coronavirus tests of the teachers that had been ensured during earlier waves of the pandemic.

“After the schools in the province reopened on August 2, coronavirus tests were stopped without giving any reasons,” he said.

He said the vaccination of the majority of schoolteachers had been completed but millions of children could be exposed to the risk as a vaccine for them had not yet been introduced in the country.

The headmaster said the government should follow the earlier of closing the schools in districts with over 5% coronavirus positive test results.

The current policy for the schools is to allow the attendance of half of the students on a day. However, the number of students attending the classes physically has dropped in recent days along with an increase in the infection rate.

“There is panic in schools across Punjab and coronavirus cases among teachers have been reported. The attendance of students is also low but only the NCOC can take a decision in this regard, while we, as government employees, have to follow the orders,” said Punjab Teachers Union president Rana Liaqat Ali.

Sharing her concern over the situation, a schoolchild’s mother Tahreem Zahra said, “Our kid’s life is more important than going to school. The parents made arrangements for online education for almost the whole of last year. Why do we have to send our children to schools when teachers are also becoming victims of coronavirus.”

She said the government should think about the safety of children as the situation was becoming dangerous once again.

She said that if an elite school had been sealed after one case of the disease was reported, then what was the crime of the millions of poor children being forced to attend classes in government schools amid the risk of the spread of coronavirus.

According to the provincial health department, at least 1,410 new cases of coronavirus were reported in Punjab in the last 24 hours, while the pandemic claimed 28 lives, including 12 in Lahore.

“We were expecting a decision today regarding the strategy about schools from the NCOC meeting but it was cancelled. The decision is now likely in the coming days,” said a senior official of the Punjab School Education Department.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2021.

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