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Punjab govt reluctant to close schools despite heatwaves

Mercury reaches 51 in Jacobabad

Another hell-like day was observed in Pakistan where mercury reached 51 degrees Celsius in Jacobabad; highest-ever recorded in the world during the month of May.

The Met Office has said that there was no chance of respite from the prevailing extreme weather during the next seven days, as day temperatures are likely to rise from May 18.

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However, amid the searing heatwaves that have gripped most parts of the country, the Punjab government seems reluctant to announce early vacations in schools.

In a notification issued on Saturday, the Punjab School Education Department asked all the district education authorities to adopt all necessary precautionary measures to protect children from the heatwave. Authorities have been directed to disseminate awareness among students during daily class lectures so as to avoid a surge in cases of heatstroke and control any outbreak of diseases.

On the other hand, Punjab Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal has asked people to avoid going out unnecessarily while suggesting women to spend less time in front of stoves for cooking purposes. In his Twitter messages, he asked people to carry an umbrella and a water bottle along with them when leaving home. “Cover head, neck and face before leaving homes,” suggested the CS.

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During the scorching temperatures, most people use extensive water to beat the heat. In his Twitter message, the CS also urged people not to waste water and electricity. He continued that people must stay indoors during the next week and asked them to use water and soft drinks. “People should avoid all kinds of meat and choose soft and airy clothing,” appealed the CS.

Afzal informed that severe heatwaves are expected across the country during the next week. “The Meteorological Department has predicted [that] the daytime temperature in upper parts of Punjab is likely to be 7-9 degrees above normal due to an increase in the intensity of weather during next week,” he said, and continued that the central and southern parts of Punjab would also be in the grip of extreme heat during the next week.

“The daytime temperatures in southern and central Punjab will be 6 to 8 degrees above normal during the day, while there is a possibility of further reduction in energy demand,” said the CS.

People expressed their concerns over the Twitter messages of the chief secretary, as he did not mention anything about closing schools. A Twitter user replied to the CS that the far districts of southern Punjab were observing above 50 degrees Celsius temperatures and amid this situation the government should have thought about schoolchildren.

Another user informed the CS that his seven-year-old granddaughter suffered from cholera, heatstroke and chicken pox on her way back from school. “Sir, examination centers should be provided with water and load shedding was another issue over there,” suggested a Twitter user.

Moreover, a large number of parents criticised the government for not announcing early vacations amidst the prevailing extreme weather situation. “I’m worried about my three kids who go to school daily in this scorching heat,” said Syed Sheraz Shah, 45, while talking to Minute Mirror. He said that he daily found his kids ‘semi-conscious’ on their return from school.

Shah said that when exams had been announced from May 23, why students were being forced to attend school instead of announcing vacations until then.

Earlier, the CS on Friday had announced to activate the provincial and district disaster management authorities across the province, while putting hospitals and Rescue 1122 on high alert. He directed all the district authorities to establish temporary water-drinking points and early response centers in their respective areas.

Following the directions, the district administration in Lahore established at least 62 heatwave centers. According to Lahore Deputy Commissioner Umar Shair Chatha, the city administration had arranged for water tankers in collaboration with WASA at 30 spots in the city. He claimed that citizens were being provided with clean drinking water on city roads.

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