By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Pakistan on Monday announced that all schools will be closed to in-person education from Thursday as the country saw a recent spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.
The much-expected decision was taken in a virtual meeting of the provincial education ministers chaired by Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood.
Announcing the decision at a news conference in the capital Islamabad, Mahmood said all schools, colleges, and universities will be closed to in-person education from Nov. 26 to Jan. 10.
All exams, slated to be held in December, have been postponed until January, he added.
"When we say all educational institutions will close on Nov. 26 and students will home learn, we mean all institutions without exception," Mahmood later said on Twitter.
However, he added, institutes for training senior medical professionals and vocational schools will remain open, continuing in-person education.
“It’s a tough decision," Mahmood said. "But we cannot compromise on our children’s health,” he maintained, referring to rising number of infections among students across the country.
Students, he further said, will continue their education from home through online classes.
If situation improves, he said, then all educational institutions will reopen from Jan. 11.
In September, the government had reopened schools after a months long lockdown, following a significant drop in the number of coronavirus cases in the country.
- Recent pandemic situation
Pakistan has seen a gradual spike in the number of coronavirus infections in recent weeks, prompting a return of shutdowns in several cities, including Islamabad, the commercial capital Karachi, and northeastern city of Lahore.
On Monday, the country recorded another 2,756 new cases and 34 deaths from the novel virus, according to the Health Ministry.
With new infections, the country’s overall caseload hit 376,929, while the death toll stands at 7,696, and recoveries reached 330,885.
Alone in November, Pakistan has so far seen over 40,000 new infections, following a second wave of the novel virus.
Following doctors’ advice, the government has banned large public events and enhanced restrictions to stem the virus's spread.
Outdoor gatherings of all sorts, including political events, were limited to a maximum of 300 people, while cinemas, theaters, and shrines were closed.
A defiant opposition alliance, which has recently launched a protest movement to oust the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, has, however, refused to postpone its planned rallies.
In the Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the government has imposed a 15-day strict lockdown starting from Saturday last, following a spike in infections.
Authorities have already announced closure of all parks and entertainment venues by 6 p.m. local time (1300GMT), and markets, shopping centers, and restaurants by 10 p.m. (1700GMT) nationwide.
In May, Pakistan eased virus restrictions and reopened businesses which had been closed since March.