ISLAMABAD: The government is mulling over a new testing strategy for educational institutions to contain the spread of coronavirus after reopening on September 15, it emerged on Wednesday.
The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), the apex decision-making body on COVID-19, met today with Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar in the chair and took stock of update on meeting related to opening up of schools and testing strategy for educational institutions.
A final decision on reopening of educational institutes will be made on September 7, as earlier intimated by the government.
Speaking on the occasion, Asad Umar said the sequence designed to open up educational institutions had been agreed by the Ministry of Education. However, the next major challenge was to enforce standard operating procedures (SOPs) and health guidelines in around 300,000 educational institutions across the country and all focus should be made in this regard.
The forum was apprised that a four-strand strategy was devised for testing in educational institutions.
The participants were briefed the strategy had been formed keeping in view the 20 major high-risk cities with 76% of the total COVID cases reported in the country.
It added that the students under this strategy would be randomly screened whereas screening of the teachers would be carried out on a periodic basis.
NCOC suggests reopening on 'top-down, rotational' basis
Last month, the NCOC had suggested that all educational institutes in the country should be reopened with a top to bottom approach (i.e universities first, then colleges, then high schools and so on) and on a rotational basis.
The meeting was attended by representatives of various educational institutions, including public and private sector institutions and madaris, to reach a consensus-based decisions on the opening of various institutions from university to school levels.
According to a statement released after the meeting, it was suggested that the timings of various institutions should be reduced by suspending various activities which involve mass gatherings, including co-curricular activities.
All participants were briefed on the current coronavirus situation prevailing globally, regionally and in the country. They were also informed about the risks and challenges involved in the opening of educational institutions as it involved children of all ages.
The educational sector representatives were informed that the NCOC's suggestions had been finalised after hectic and lengthy consultations with international experts, academia and think tanks, particularly those who had been working on the reopening of the educational sector.
Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood told the meeting participants that the basic challenge to open educational institutions was founded on two questions: what are the indicators for opening, and what measures will be taken to ensure that health guidelines ensuring the use of face masks, social distancing and hygiene measures.