ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood said on Monday the Pakistan government wanted to continue education activities and keep schools and colleges open amid reports of a new COVID-19 variant named Omicron.
The Omicron variant spread around the world on Sunday, with new cases found in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia even as more countries imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was not yet clear whether Omicron, first detected in Southern Africa, is more transmissible than other variants, or if it causes more severe disease.
Speaking to the media in Lahore, Mahmood said he was not aware of the details about the new strain but “there should not be any disruption in education.”
“Examinations would be held on time and with complete syllabus as decided by the education ministers,” The News quoted Mahmood as saying.
Pakistan resumed regular classes at all educational institutes around the country last month.
On Saturday, Pakistan banned travel from six South African countries and Hong Kong following the emergence of the new coronavirus variant.
“Based on the emergence of the new covid variant, notification has been issued to restrict travel from 6 south African countries and Hong Kong,” Minister for Planning, Development Asad Umar had announced on Twitter. “The emergence of new variant makes it even more urgent to vaccinate all eligible citizens 12 years and older.”
The WHO has said preliminary data suggested that there were increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, “but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection.”
It said understanding the level of severity of Omicron “will take days to several weeks.”
The detection of Omicron has triggered global alarm as governments around the world scrambled to impose new travel curbs and financial markets sold-off, fearing the variant could resist vaccinations and upend a nascent economic reopening after a two-year global pandemic.
In its statement, the WHO said it was working with technical experts to understand the potential impact of the variant on existing countermeasures against COVID-19, including vaccines.