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Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood announced on Wednesday that the government has decided to keep the educational institutions open except for Sindh despite the rising number of coronavirus cases throughout the country.

The announcement was made in a news conference following a meeting of the Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) presided over by Shafqat in Islamabad. Implementation of coronavirus standard operation procedures (SOPs) and various other options were discussed in the meeting.

"The government has decided to keep the educational institutions open with strict adherence to Covid-19 SOPs," the education minister said.

He said that all government and private schools will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity. "It is important that we look after the educational activities of our children as well as we do not know how long the pandemic is going to last," he added.

Shafqat Mahmood said that the educational institutions in Sindh however would remain closed till August 8.

'Exams as per schedule'

He said that examinations would also be conducted throughout the country as per schedule except for Sindh, saying that 5% grace mark will be given to the students.

Shafqat said that the federal government has asked all provinces to get all teachers, students and other staff of the universities to get vaccinated, adding that it will be made mandatory after August 31.

He further said the situation will be reviewed further during another meeting of IPEMC, scheduled for August 25.

The fourth wave of coronavirus pandemic — fuelled by the deadlier and more contagious Delta variant — continues to wreak havoc throughout the country particularly in Sindh.

Pakistan's tally for confirmed coronavirus cases soared to 1,047,999 after the country recorded a fresh 4,722 cases of the infection on Tuesday.

At least 46 more fatalities were also recorded, taking the death toll to 23,575.

In the wake of rising numbers of Covid patients, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) – the nerve centre of the government’s anti-pandemic strategy – decided on Monday to re-impose certain restrictions in selected cities for a period of one month from Tuesday till August 31.

Announcing the revised guidelines, NCOC chief and Planning Minister Asad Umar said that the government was taking “targeted and staggered” decisions to curb the spread of the pandemic – now mostly fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant of coronavirus.

“After approval of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the NCOC has decided” to impose certain restrictions in almost all the major cities of the country, where the market hours have been cut and office attendance reduced to 50%, Umar told a press conference.

Under the restrictions, markets, which were allowed to remain open till 10 pm, would now again close at 8 pm in these selected cities. They will observe two off days in a week instead of one.  “The off days will be decided by the provinces,” Umar said.

Furthermore, the government withdrew the permission granted for indoor dining for the vaccinated people because of very weak compliance seen at the restaurants. It was decided that outdoor dining would be allowed till 10 pm and take-away service till 12 midnight.

With respect to offices, the planning minister pointed out that for the month of August, 50% attendance would be allowed in all public and private offices, while the remaining 50% employees would work from home.

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