Just four months after resuming physical attendance at schools, the government has once again decided to keep all educational institutions closed for two weeks.

On September 12, schools and colleges in the country had reopened after 18 months of closure due to the emergence of Covid-19.

In a notification on Friday, the Cabinet Division said schools, colleges and equivalent educational institutions will remain closed from January 21 to February 6.

Universities will take similar measures, it said, before stipulating some new restrictions. Carrying vaccination certificates has been made mandatory while travelling by bus or attending any gatherings.

During a press briefing on Friday morning, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said educational institutions had been closed as the infection rate among students was increasing.

“The infection rate among students is getting high and more of them are visiting doctors for treatment. So, the closure is necessary to contain the spread of infections immediately. Schools, colleges and universities – all will be closed,” he said.

The minister added that the Covid-19 infection rate was rapidly increasing due to widespread breaches of health rules.

“More than 1,000 beds (one third) in the capital are now occupied. If the infection keeps spreading like this, it will be beyond the capacity of hospitals,” Maleque added.

According to the government notification, attendance at any social, political and religious event must not exceed 100 people. All in attendance must carry their vaccine certificates or a negative Covid-19 PCR test report conducted within 24 hours.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque speaks at a media call on Friday, January 21, 2022 Dhaka Tribune

The government has also decided to limit offices and factories to 50% staff. A circular in this regard will be issued soon.

Employees must also carry vaccine certificates at the office.

The mask mandate will remain in effect. Local administrations and law enforcement officials have been asked to make sure health rules are followed.

When asked why schools have been closed while the Dhaka Trade Fair (DTF), public gatherings, tourist spots, Bangabandhu Premier League (BPL) and the upcoming Book Fair remain open, the health minister reiterated that vaccine certificates are now mandatory to attend these events.

Why the decision?

Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni on Friday said the government has decided to keep educational institutions closed for two weeks considering the recent surge in Covid-19 infections among children.

Asked if Covid infections among children could be controlled by the measure, the minister said they were forced to make the decision, but the “effectiveness depends on everyone maintaining the hygiene rules”.

She also said that the ministry was monitoring the situation closely and that schools and colleges would reopen if the situation improved.

“However, for now, the classes will continue online,” she added.

The minister further said that the university level students would have to follow health rules prescribed by the residential hall authorities. “If the situation improves, they will return to classes as well,” she said.

Coaching centers across the country would also remain closed in line with the new instructions, she added.

The minister was speaking to reporters after a discussion held at the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) in the capital.

University closure, exams postponed

The Dhaka University and Khulna University (KU) authorities have suspended in-person classes and decided to go virtual after the decision to close educational institutions.

However, online classes and exams will be held. Dormitories will remain open at KU during the closure.

Rajshahi University (RU) has also suspended in-person classes till February 6. The residential halls of the university will, however, remain open so that physical attendance can be resumed as soon as possible, once it is deemed safe again.

Besides, all examinations under National University (NU) have been postponed until further notice. A revised schedule for the postponed exams will be published at a later date.

Bangladesh Open University (BOU) has also suspended all its exams under different programs scheduled to be held on January 22.

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