Amid a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood on Tuesday announced that no examinations will take place in the country until June 15. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad after a special meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), he said O and A Level exams have been cancelled and will now take place in October-November cycle. However, A2 exams will keep running for those students who want to appear for the purpose of applying to foreign universities. “It has been directed strictly that after Monday, more than 50 people will not be in one centre. For that, we have requested that schools be made venues,” the minister said, adding that law enforcement personnel will be deployed to maintain discipline. Shafqat Mehmood said that from April 18 until now, the number of coronavirus cases has rapidly risen, therefore, it has been decided to postpone all exams until June 15. “Exams of 9, 10, 11 and 12 which were supposed to begin from the end of May have been delayed further,” he said. “No board exams will be held till mid-June (June 15),” he further said, adding that another meeting of the NCOC will decide in the third week of May to decide whether these exams will be postponed further or not. According to the minister, university admissions in Pakistan will be aligned for grade 12 and A2 students who will be taking exams in Oct-Nov. “This is to ensure no one loses a year,” he said. The decision comes after widespread calls from students, activists and politicians for the government to cancel the Cambridge exams in view of the third wave of coronavirus. Mahmood noted that Cambridge has announced that no extra fees will be charged for students shifting their exams to Oct-Nov, while other concessions would also be applicable. “This is a difficult time. A lot of parents will be reassured [by the decision] that their children will not go to sit exams at a time when Covid is at a peak,” the minister said, emphasising that the decision had been taken in a “collective spirit” in the best interests of students’ future. Speaking alongside him, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said “strict compliance” of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) would be ensured at venues where A2 students were taking exams. Meanwhile, Ministry of Interior announced fresh restrictions across the country on Tuesday, which includes a complete ban on tourism from May 8-16. A meeting of the NCOC was held where important decisions were taken by the body. A press release issued by the ministry announced that the NCOC had decided to ban tourism from May 8-16. “Closure of tourist resorts, public parks and hotels in / around tourist spots to remain closed,” read the press release. The NCOC announced a ban on inter-provincial and inter-city transport will also remain during the Eid holidays however, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan will be allowed to travel back to their areas during the holidays. The interior ministry said all tourist resorts, public parks, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and transport will also remain closed for the public. “Travel nodes leading to tourist spots [will also remain] closed; focus on [the areas of] Murree, Galiyat, Swat-Kalam, Sea View/beaches and the Northern Areas [will remain],” stated the press release. The press release said the NCOC had decided that a continuous supply of electricity during the Eid will be provided to the masses. Pakistan recorded over 4,400 new infections, taking the total tally to 804,939 on Tuesday. According to the government’s database for tracking the spread of coronavirus, Pakistan conducted 43,981 COVID-19 tests out of which 4,487 returned positive. With 142 new fatalities, the total coronavirus death toll in Pakistan has reached 17,329. The highest death toll in the last 24 hours was reported in Punjab, which saw 107 new deaths. The country’s average positivity rate has risen to 10.2% with 87,794 active cases, while the number of recoveries nationwide has reached 699,816 so far. The maximum ventilators were occupied in four major areas including Peshawar 78 percent, Mardan 73 percent, Gujranwala 81 percent and Lahore 69 percent. The maximum oxygen beds were occupied in four major areas of Rawalpindi 63 percent, Gujranwala 85 percent, Peshawar 89 percent and Mardan 67 percent. Around 599 ventilators were occupied elsewhere in the country while no Covid affected person was on ventilator in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Balochistan.