Announcing back-to-school protocols: UAE Government media briefing

ABU DHABI, 22nd August, 2021 – Dr. Farida Al Hosani, official spokesperson for the Health Sector, said the UAE has succeeded in achieving a strategic balance across all sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in containing the virus spread thanks to intensive country-level efforts.

During the UAE Government media briefing, Dr. Al Hosani announced the details of the guidelines for educational facilities during the pandemic, which include a set of rules and controls covering national educational establishments, including nurseries, child care centres, public and private schools, training centres and institutes.

The protocols will be circulated to all educational facilities across the country, and is available for download on the official website of the Ministry of Education, she added.

The protocols explain all precautionary measures to be implemented by educational establishments, to ensure the safe return of students and staff.

According to the protocols, all educational establishments have been drafting an “School Readiness” plan, which aims to facilitate the return of students and includes precautionary requirements and procedures established by health authorities. Students, teachers and educational cadres are required to sign a health declaration form confirming they do not have COVID-19 and have not been exposed to any positive cases.

Dr. Al Hosani pointed out that the protocol will be activated 30 days after the first school day, to give unvaccinated people the opportunity to receive the vaccine. During this period, all students, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, must provide a negative PCR test result every two weeks. After the 30-day period, all unvaccinated students under the age of 12, and vaccinated students over 12, must undergo a PCR test every month. Unvaccinated students over 12 will be required to take a weekly PCR test.

A distance learning option will also be available for all age groups, whether vaccinated or not, and parents are required to download the Al Hosn app for their children to provide proof of their vaccination status and PCR testing records.

The protocols may be subject to updates or changes according to the situation in the country, and health authorities are considering adding new age groups that may be required to be vaccinated in the coming period, she stressed.

As part of the national efforts aimed at addressing the pandemic, Dr. Al Hosani said the locations of all centres providing vaccines around the country have been announced, while urging parents to vaccinate their children.

Educational establishments will manage the entry and exit process at their gates, as well as maintain relevant precautionary measures, prevent overcrowding during classes and break times, and enforce a one-metre social distancing rule, she added, noting labels will be placed on the floor to mark a safe distance in all facilities, and guidance and awareness banners will be put up to highlight the importance of complying with the precautionary measures.

She then affirmed the importance of considering the needs of students who are people of determination and dividing them into different groups, while making sure they are concentrated in one particular group.

If any employees or students have COVID-19 symptoms, they must inform the person in charge of health and safety, along with parents, about a suspected infection, as well as provide updates about the health situation in their establishment.

Educational establishments will also allocate a room for quarantine, in line with the requirements of the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP), Dr. Al Hosani added.

Concerning prayer rooms, all Muslim students and employees will bring their own praying mats and must wear face masks during prayers. The rooms will be cleaned and sanitised after every prayer session.

Regarding transportation services to and from educational establishments, she stressed that buses must adhere to all safety requirements and the student capacity guidelines of relevant authorities to ensure the health and safety of students in school buses. If related instructions are violated, appropriate punishments will be applied.

“We also announce the formation of action teams in educational establishments, known as the “Health and Safety Committee,” which will monitor all activities to guarantee the implementation of the health and precautionary measures adopted in the country,” she said.

She also pointed out that a strong immunity is the best way to avoid diseases and viruses, in general, noting that the education sector is responsible for the health and safety of students. Therefore, a health and nutrition guide is provided to school canteens, and adherence to all precautionary measures is necessary during break periods, including respecting social distances and ensuring space between students to prevent overcrowding.

Concerning higher educational phases, she said they recommended an increase in sales outlets, facilitating the sales process, and obliging food providers in educational establishments to adhere to health requirements implemented during the pandemic.

She also stressed that 86 percent of educational cadres and 84 percent of administrative and technical staff have been vaccinated.

“We have completed a year and a half of distance learning, and the education sector has proven its success in continuing, despite the pandemic. Today, our role is key to maintaining this success and ensuring the return to normalcy. It is important to prepare students for physical attendance in schools and continuing their education in all national schools,” she noted.

She commended the national efforts to vaccinate all segments of the community between the ages of 3 and 17, and lauded the role of parents and their efforts to raise the awareness of their children about the importance of adhering to the precautionary measures, as well as their continuous support for the process of education in the country, enabling it to succeed in adopting all procedures and instructions within the protocols.

Dr Al Hosani said educational establishments should be informed about anyone with chronic diseases or immunity disease, and make sure they are not exposed to any COVID-19 patients for at least two weeks before the start of school.

If parents request a meeting with a teacher, it must be scheduled after school hours and after students leave the building. The educational establishment must also document the time of entry and exit of parents.

Al Hosani thanked all educational cadres for their previous efforts to ensure the continuity of education in the UAE.