Schools across Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Lahore, Gujrat, Multan, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Muzaffarabad, Peshawar and Islamabad will remain closed from March 15 to March 28.
The decision has been taken because of the rising coronavirus cases in these cities, Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood announced while addressing briefing the media about the decisions taken by the National Command and Operation Centre.
Schools in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will, on the other hand, resume classes with 50% attendance, he said.
Mahmood clarified that the decision will be applicable to all educational institutions, whether its schools, universities or colleges. These restrictions will, however, not be applicable to exams. A-Level, matric and intermediate examinations will be held as per schedule.
"Schools should monitor the situation themselves and take the necessary decisions." The decision will be reviewed in the next NCOC meeting on April 12.
All provincial ministers will be attending the meeting to work on the future strategy regarding schools, Mahmood said.
"The virus is not the same as it was in November and December but we have seen a rise in cases over the week," he said.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan said that due to a rise in coronavirus cases, the following decisions have been taken by the government:
- People to wear masks in public spaces at all times.
- 50% of employees to work from home.
- Commercial activities to close at 10pm.
- Amusement parks to close at 6pm.
- The decision regarding reopening wedding halls, indoor dining, cinemas on March 15 has been taken back.
- Outdoor dining to continue.
On Wednesday, 43 people lost their lives from the virus while 1,786 new cases were reported countrywide. The highest number of cases were recorded in Sindh followed by Punjab.
Private schools reject the government's decision
The All Pakistan Private Schools Federation has rejected the government's decision to close schools.
President Kashif Mirza said that the federation will speak up for the benefits of the students.
"Millions of students across the country haven't returned to schools at all, at least 700,000 teachers are still unemployed and over 10,000 schools have shut down," he said.
"Why is it that students can go everywhere except schools," Mirza questioned.
He said that students can't afford any more educational losses. "We will go to Islamabad and protest if we are forced to close the schools."
Pakistan schools and coronavirus
All educational institutions across the country were closed in late February 2020 after coronavirus cases began to rise. They were reopened in phases starting September 15, 2020.
On November 23, 2020, after the second wave of coronavirus cases hit the country, the government announced that all educational institutions would close again from November 26,2020.
Classes were taken online till December 24, 2020, and winter vacations started from December 25, 2020, and were supposed to last till January 10. The government said it would hold a meeting to review the decision to reopen schools on January 4.
The NCOC then decided that schools would reopen in phases with classes nine to 12 being the first to reopen on January 18.