Over 3,500 coronavirus patients in Pakistan are in critical condition, the highest number since the beginning of the outbreak, the Planning Minister Asad Umar said on Sunday. Umar, who heads the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the government’s central body dealing with the pandemic, said that 3,568 Covid-19 patients are critically ill. “This is the highest number since Covid started,” he said in a tweet, as he called for safety protocols to be observed: “Please take precautions and cooperate with administration in their enforcement efforts.” As per the statistics issued by the NCOC on Sunday, Punjab again recorded the highest number of Covid-19 deaths over the last 24 hours, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The country recorded at least 81 more fatalities on Saturday, out of which 49 occurred in Punjab, whereas K-P recorded 23 deaths. The country’s death toll has now reached 14,778. The country’s nerve centre for Covid-19 response added that the total number of active cases in the country currently stands at 60,072, with at least 5,020 cases recorded in the last 24 hours. According to the NCOC, about 55,605 tests were conducted across the country on April 3, of which 5,020 came out positive, taking the country’s tally for cases so far reported to 687,908. Out of the total number of deaths, 6,572 deaths have occurred in Punjab, 4,509 in Sindh, 2,440 in KP, 579 in Islamabad, 211 in Balochistan, 364 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and 103 in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B). The NCOC stated that of the 81 fatalities reported on April 3, three were reported in Sindh, 49 in Punjab, 23 in KP, five in Islamabad and one in AJK. Moreover, the total number of patients to have recovered across the country stood at 613,058. Pakistan has so far conducted about 10,403,335 Covid-19 tests. There are about 631 hospitals with Covid-19 facilities and around 4,288 patients admitted across the country. The Sindh Education Department has decided to suspend physical classes till grade 8 of all schools in the province from Tuesday (April 6). The classes will remain suspended for 15 days, said Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani in a tweet. He said children’s education will continue through online classes, homework and other means during this period. Meanwhile, the Private Schools Association on Sunday rejected the Sindh government’s order. The association in its statement said that at the end of the academic year, schools cannot be shut for two weeks or more. “Schools should be kept open until the imposition of complete lockdown,” it demanded. Already 20 million children did not return to schools after the closure of educational institutions due to the outbreak of the pandemic. The Private Schools Association has urged the government to adopt a smart lockdown policy, rather than shutting down the schools. It was further said that the closure of schools has already resulted in the unemployment of several teachers. Meanwhile, the decision related to schools’ closure will be taken by the authorities at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Tuesday. This was said by Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood on Twitter where he noted that keeping in view the deteriorating situation of the virus, the NCOC meeting will also bring the exam situation under discussion. “Education and Health Ministers will meet at the NCOC Tuesday to decide whether to open or further close educational institutions. The exam situation will also be discussed,” the federal minister wrote on Twitter. He added: “Whatever is decided will be a collective decision of the country’s health and education authorities and NCOC.” The country is presently gripped in the third wave of coronavirus which is said to be more contagious and hazardous than the previous cycles. Over 5,000 people once again tested positive for the coronavirus again over the past 24 hours. The rate of positive tests of the novel coronavirus has soared to a record level of 11.28 percent in the federal capital. “The weekly rate of positive cases has reached a record 11.28 percent in the week from March-29 to 04 April,” District Health Officer Islamabad Dr Zaeem said on Sunday. “The rate has been the highest in the last 10 weeks,” the health official said. “The weekly rate of positive cases in the previous week of March 22-28, was 09.69 percent, while in January 18-24, the ratio of positive cases in the federal capital city was 1.67 percent,” Dr Zaeem said. “Weekly ratio of positive cases of Covid-19 registered a steep hike in March and the rate in the first week of the month from March 1st to 07 was 4.15 percent,” the official said. “The ratio of positive cases increased in the second week from March 08-14 to 5.03 percent and the ratio reached 8.71 pct in March 15 to 21,” DHO Islamabad further said. The novel coronavirus has claimed 81 more lives in Pakistan during the past 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to 14,778. The latest statistics of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) showed 5,020 fresh infections during the period. During the period of a day, the total count of active cases was recorded at 58,581 and the positivity rate stood at 9.02 percent.