ISLAMABAD: Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said on Saturday that any hasty decision to close down schools will "destroy education," after dozens of institutes across Pakistan shut down again for failing to follow coronavirus precautions.
The minister's words came a day after authorities in Sindh province decided to delay the reopening of secondary schools over fears of the spread of COVID-19. Educational institutions across the country started to reopen on Sept. 15. All schools were closed in March when the government enforced a nationwide lockdown to contain the pandemic.
The six-month closure "deeply affected the students," Mahmood said in a Twitter post. "Decision to open was taken with great care. Any hasty decision to close will destroy education."
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) announced on Friday that another 13 educational institutions — 10 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and three in Sindh — were closed due to “non-compliance with health protocols and disease prevalence.” Also on Friday, Balochistan education department closed two high schools after several students tested positive for COVID-19. On Thursday, 22 schools were sealed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad and Azad Kashmir.
Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has warned last week that the government was "taking a huge risk" by reopening schools.
“The government should make antibody tests for school staff compulsory to check the infection before the reopening,” PMA secretary general Dr. Qaiser Sajjad told Arab News on Sept. 12, as he warned that school staff and students could become virus carriers.
Pakistan’s infection figures are increasing again after a steady decline between June and late August.
At least 645 people have tested positive for the coronavirus during the past 24 hours. Over 305,000 people have contracted the virus in Pakistan since the beginning of the outbreak and 6,415 have succumbed to the disease.