Pakistan to reopen schools, universities on Tuesday
Over 300,000 schools, colleges, universities across country to open after 6 months amid COVID-19 downward trend
Thousands of schools and colleges across Pakistan will reopen from Tuesday, ending a six-month long closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Pakistani Education Ministry, all higher education institutions in the country will reopen from Sept. 15, whereas students in grade nine to 12 will also be returning to school on the same day.
"Tomorrow we will welcome millions of children back to school. It is our priority & collective responsibility to ensure that every child can go to school safely to learn. We have worked to ensure that school operations are aligned with public health safety rules on #COVID19," Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted.
Khan said his government prepared standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure safe teaching environment in education institutions.
In March, Pakistan closed all education institutions across the country following the coronavirus outbreak.
On Sept. 7, the country's Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, while announcing the reopening of some 300,000 schools, colleges, and universities, said they will reopen the education institutions in phases to avoid another wave of the virus.
“If all goes well, then students in grade six to eight will return to school on Sept. 23, while students in nursery to grade five will be back to school on Sept. 30," Mahmood said.
Over 30,000 religious seminaries across the country will also reopen in phases from Tuesday.
According to the SOPs issued by the government, masks will be mandatory for all teachers and students, while schools, colleges, and university administrations will ensure sensitizers at the entry gates.
Pakistan is among a handful of countries to have witnessed a dramatic drop in the number of daily coronavirus cases, from nearly 7,000 to 200 over the past few months, with fatalities from the novel virus hovering in single digits each day.
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) also praised Islamabad and some other countries who managed the coronavirus crisis well and said world can learn from these countries.
"Pakistan deployed the infrastructure built up over many years for polio to combat COVID-19. Community health workers who have been trained to go door-to-door vaccinating children for polio have been utilized for surveillance, contact tracing and care," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO head said during a briefing.
"There are many other examples we could give, including Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, Vietnam and more," Tedros added.
Pakistan has so far recorded 302,020 cases, of which 289,806 have recovered, according to the Health Ministry data.
The number of fatalities from COVID-19 stands at 6,383.
The government is currently following a "mini smart lockdown" strategy. According to this plan, authorities seal off only houses or workplaces where infections are reported, instead of closing the entire area, street or shopping center.