The Coronavirus has had a devastating effect on the entire world, with experts warning that the present crisis could well be the tip of a global iceberg.

The virus, which first appeared in Chinese province of Wuhan earlier this year, has now become the primary worry for nations around the world, mainly due to the impact China has on the global economy and for it being the epicenter of the global manufacturing sector.

Named COVID-19, the virus has affected more than 119,200 people in 120 countries and caused 4,300 deaths. This makes the COVID-19 mortality rate close to 3.4%, most certainly not the deadliest, but one of the deadliest viruses the world has battled to date.

Outside of China, Italy has become the country hit hardest by the virus. The entire country has been put under quarantine with strict restrictions on travel and public gathering and congregation.

Closer to home, Iran is battling a hard battle with the virus and some of the pressure is seeping into Pakistan, a country that has so far been spared of the virus’ wrath.

Pakistan has 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date, and most patients who have tested positive visited Iran recently. Authorities in Karachi, the country’s financial capital, have ordered closure of schools to limit the possibility of the virus spreading at a larger scale.

The move follows similar moves by other nations. Schools in many countries including China, Italy, Germany, Japan and South-Korea have been ordered shut. So have been universities and colleges. As of 10 March, 32 countries in three continents have announced or implemented school and university closures. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO the COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted the education of at least 290.5 million students worldwide, creating a potentially irreparable education crisis.

Raison d’être

Considering that COVID-19 can spread from person-to-person and even by coming in contact with contaminated surfaces, closure of schools and universities could in fact minimize the risk of further spread. Campuses can become brewing grounds for COVID-19 if proper precautions are not taken and this very realization has forced countries look for other methods to continue imparting education to students.

Pakistan and Pakistani educational institutions may not need to panic at the moment considering the limited number of people affected by the virus, but it might well be very wise to be prepared, considering the speed with which the virus can travel and infect people.

Taking cues from countries that have found ways to continue the educational process despite the spread of the disease, here is what educational institutions in Pakistan, especially universities can keep in mind in case they have to, God forbid, deal with COVID-19.

 

Moving Classes Online

Institutions around the world have scrambled to shift on ground educational operations online to battle with the effects of COVID-19. As an advance practice Pakistani universities must ask professors and lecturers to prepare recorded lectures or familiarize themselves with video conferencing tools such as Skype so that they are ready in case extreme measures have to be taken.

Administrations must also brace for a potential lockdown and strengthen IT infrastructure to support the move to online education if need be.

Maintaining Hygiene

Surfaces in classrooms, cafeterias, and other communal spaces must be cleaned with anti-bacterial cleaners to reduce the risk of virus transmission through contaminated surfaces. Anyone cooking or serving food at a campus must wear a hairnet, facemask, and possibly gloves wherever applicable. Alcohol-based hand sanitizes with at least 60% alcohol and anti-bacterial hand washes should be made available across the campus.

Cancel Exchange Programs

No one is certain as of now which parts or regions of the world might have been affected by the virus and still not know it. So it is essential for university administrations to cancel all exchange programs that take students abroad or bring overseas students in.

It is also necessary for university administrations to inform health authorities about students who have recently returned from countries where the virus has been active or encourage them to undergo self-quarantine to minimize the risk of spreading the disease.

Inform

It is extremely important to make the virus and it effects, as well as how to fight the disease, known to students. Regular informational sessions and seminars must be conducted to drill down the lessons needed to fight a common battle against COVID-19.

Health warnings, hand-washing reminders and cleaning tips must become part of routine practice at all educational institutions.

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