Many schools in the UAE have issued renewed advisories cautioning parents and their wards to take all precautionary measures for Covid-19.
This word of caution comes after the country’s coronavirus cases crossed the 1,000 mark, in a four-month high, on Thursday.
But school heads say despite the rise in the cases they haven’t observed any serious effects on pupils or a rapid infection rate.
Additionally, institutions have been receiving updated notifications from the Covid Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (CMEC) in private schools and nurseries stipulating guidelines for exam related procedures in case children contract Covid during the ongoing board exams.
Dr Arogya Reddy Principal, Ambassador School Sharjah opined, “We are maintaining a 10-day quarantine period for Covid-positive cases, as mandated by the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA), and as directed by the Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA). Both the bodies work together closely for all Covid-19 related protocols that are to be implemented in the emirate's schools. Close contacts have to quarantine for five days and will be allowed to return to school after providing a negative PCR test. If a kindergarten pupil contracts Covid, then the entire class has to be quarantined. This is because their activity levels are much more as compared to older kids. It is also difficult to maintain social distancing norms when it comes to them. The class then switches to online learning mode.”
“For older children (not taking exams into consideration), any child who contracts Covid-19 or is a close contact will be offered distance learning during the isolation period,” he added.
The rules vary slightly from one emirate to the other, and there are minor changes from school to school. But the blanket rule of maintaining a 10-day quarantine period for Covid-19 positive cases remains unchanged across the board.
Abu Dhabi school rule
In Abu Dhabi, a school will be shut if 10 per cent of the students test positive for Covid.
Robert Rinaldo, Head of School at GEMS American Academy - Abu Dhabi says,” All students and visitors must have a valid green status on their Al Hosn app. If 10 per cent of the student population test positive for Covid, we are required to close the school. We must contact trace, notify parents, and close contacts and then advise on the PCR testing period. We report the cases to ADEK and the Department of Health. We monitor all cases to confirm return to school.”
If a sibling or any other family member tests positive, then as a close contact, the student must fulfil the PCR testing requirements of day one and day seven. They will also be monitored for any symptoms.
Rinaldo adds, “It is a constant challenge to keep up with the contact tracing requirements, but in our school, we are doing all we can to ensure the health and safety of our community.”
As per CMEC, Covid positive students can attend their exams in school if the institution can secure an isolated area/room with full adherence to precautionary measures and avoiding any form of close interaction with others in school before and after the exam.
For close contacts taking the exams, no quarantine is required if they are asymptomatic and can produce a negative PCR test result. They can sit for their exams in school with full adherence to the Covid precautionary measures, but they have to avoid any close interaction with others in school before and after the exam.
Lisa Johnson, Principal, American Academy for Girls says, “While we have seen an uptick in positive cases in school, but we are not seeing an increase in infection rates from any close contacts at school. A student is considered a close contact if he/she has been less than a metre from someone who has tested positive with or without a mask for period of 15 minutes or more. Identified close contacts can continue to come to school provided they are symptom-free, but they have to be monitored for seven days after the last exposure.
“We have maintained mandatory class seating charts to ensure we can still contact trace. We monitor students quite closely; if a teacher notices a student is not well, and having respiratory illness symptoms, the student is sent to the clinic for an assessment,” Johnson added.
Meanwhile, schools are continuing to maintain strict protocols and monitoring adherence to mask requirements.
She further says, “When the weather and air quality permits, we encourage outdoor dining in shaded areas. The good news is that we are not seeing students and staff with serious side effects from this wave of Covid. Our hybrid learning model ensures that students or staff who are infected can continue learning or working online.”
Naveed Iqbal, Principal/ CEO of GEMS Metropole School – Motor City said, “The protocols we follow are in accordance with guidelines from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). Students who are Covid-19 positive are expected to quarantine at home for 10 days and report to the school clinic for clearance. Students who are close contacts can attend school if they do not display any symptoms.”
He adds, “After the 10 days quarantine period, a student must be symptom-free and report to the school clinic following which, a clearance certificate will be issued to the classroom teacher.”
Principals reiterate schools are regularly monitoring Covid cases within the country, following all guidelines and raising awareness about the importance of social distancing at home as well as wearing a mask.
They underline that campuses are being cleaned regularly and the main touch points are frequently disinfected.
“Any class that has reported a case is deep cleaned to remove chances of spreading any infectious disease. Temperature checks are no longer part of the daily routine. However, clinics conduct a triage process if students show early signs,” adds Iqbal.