KARACHI - Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho opposed the reopening of schools in the province after the rate of positive coronavirus cases had doubled.

According to Dr Azra Pechuho, the rate of positive coronavirus cases has doubled in Sindh from 1.5% to 3% which is concerning when it comes to reopening schools in the province.

It is pertinent to mention that the Sindh government had decided to postpone reopening of middle schools in the province till September 28th on account emergence of coronavirus cases among students and teachers including unsatisfactory implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). The statement from the health minister is important in the backdrop of reopening of middle schools in the province from September 28 which were earlier scheduled to resume classes from September 21. The Sindh government had decided to postpone the reopening amid fears of a virus resurgence, however, classes from six to eight were resumed all over the country from September 23 after approval from the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC).

“A second wave of coronavirus has been predicted in the current situation,” Dr Azra Pechuho said, adding that she had reservations about reopening of the educational institutes.

“Do not rush to open primary schools! Primary schools must be given at least one to one-and-a-half month to reopen,” the Sindh health minister warned. “It would be right to send children to school only when the situation [related to the coronavirus pandemic] is clear,” she added.

 

On the other hand, PTI’s Umar, the federal planning and development minister, said a “significant build-up in covid testing [has been] done to carry out sentinel testing at educational institutions in order to identify early trends, if any”.

 

“42,299 tests carried out yesterday which is by far the highest ever. Positivity ratio continues to be stable below 2%,” he said on Twitter.

 

Nevertheless, a report issued by the Sindh Health and Population Welfare Department indicated that at least 185 people associated with educational institutions across the province have contracted the deadly coronavirus.

 

Some 35,339 people at educational institutions were tested, the health department noted, adding that the test reports of 25,000 individuals in universities, colleges, and high schools turned out negative.

 

Most of the positive cases across Sindh’s 29 districts were from Karachi, it added.

 

In a press conference around midday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said the provincial government “cannot reopen schools” until the implementation of precautionary measures was ensured since the standard operating procedures were not being followed.

 

“I want to make it clear to parents, teachers, and everyone else that, apart from the fact that people lost their loved ones, the closure of schools is the biggest setback of the virus.

 

“We are vigilantly observing the situation to reopen schools as soon as we can. However, a bigger loss than this would be the outbreak of virus in our schools,” Shah warned.

 

Despite children being less likely to contract the coronavirus, “we cannot roll our eyes away from the fact that they still are the potential carriers,” he explained.

 

The chief minister highlighted that the Sindh Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) distributed more than 500,000 face masks in schools and that his government was “trying to facilitate the school administrations as much as we can and also the citizens”.

 

Stressing on the usage of face masks, the minister said heeding this particular precautionary measure has contributed a lot to the curtailment of the disease. “A few citizens still believe in the misconception that the virus is long gone,” he added.

 

Shah further stressed that while Sindh government was closely monitoring the situation, it would review its prior decision with its federal counterpart on September 28.

 

“We should not be complacent about the virus,” he said. “We still do not have the medication or the vaccine for the contagion.”

INP/AJ/LK