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ISLAMABAD: The government, while terming the pandemic situation in control, has allowed schools across the country to resume classes for grade six to eight from Wednesday.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, along with Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, Minister for Federal Education Shafqat Mehmood said following the decision of the federal government, Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir had agreed to resume middle school classes from Wednesday (today).

However, the Sindh government has decided a week’s delay in implementing this decision, and classes will also not start in Rawalakot, Azad Kashmir.

Mehmood said the decision had been taken after reviewing the countrywide health conditions and spread of the coronavirus cases.

He added that he and the provincial ministers had visited schools across the country to ensure that standard operating procedures (SOPs) for curbing the spread of the virus were being followed.

Several schools were closed down for not following the SOPs.

It was being perceived incorrectly that this was done due to an increase in the number of cases, said the minister, adding that this was done only because they did not follow the guidelines.

“The situation is improving, but we require your cooperation,” said Mehmood, adding that the decisions regarding resumption of primary school classes would be taken after another review meeting to be held next week.

Dr Sultan added that during the past one week, since schools reopened across the country, there had not been a rise in the number of total cases or the positivity rate.

He also urged parents, students and schools’ administrations to ensure and encourage the use of face masks and follow other guidelines for curbing the spread of the virus.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) decided to go ahead with the second phase of reopening of educational institutes and reopen schools for grade six to eight students.

The NCOC meeting chaired by Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar was held here on Tuesday to review the coronavirus situation after reopening of schools in the country.

Officials of the Ministry of Education informed the meeting that strict implementation of the SOPs was being ensured in all educational institutes and they were ready for the second phase.

Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Education Minister Shahram Tarakai also announced that middle schools would be reopened from Wednesday (today).

Murad Raas said that coronavirus pandemic was not over in the country, so virus cases would emerge in schools but strict implementation of the SOPs should be ensured.

Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani said in a news conference that the coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not followed 100 percent at the government schools but the situation was relatively better.

“Classes from fifth to eighth will not resume on September 21 and situation will be analysed after a week. Middle classes can be started on September 28th, if condition improves but will be postponed, if situation deteriorated.”

In the first phase universities, colleges and school for ninth and tenth grade were allowed to reopen from September 15th under strict implementation of SOPs. Primary schools will be allowed to reopen from September 30th in third phase.