Last summer, after months of intense sacrifice and hardship due to Covid-19, some people around the world were lucky enough to be in a position to start seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
The UAE was one such country. It was a period in which the Emirates felt the relief of a gradual re-opening after several months of strict but necessary controls. Life was still far from normal, however. New variants were emerging, and deaths were still commonplace across the world.
Many of the countries that lucky holidaymakers visited during the summer season, often to see family members they had been separated from for months, would have still required PCR tests in advance and proof of vaccination. The return to schools was staggered, with the constant prospect of a resumption of remote learning if cases rose.
That is why this summer has still been an important chapter in the story of the UAE and the world's recovery from Covid-19. This one felt more normal than 2021, bar severe restrictions in only a few countries and travel chaos in many international ports, particularly in Europe.
But we are not out of the woods yet. In recognition of this fact, the government on Tuesday released the latest batch of Covid-19 regulations for when state-run schools restart on August 29. The announcement, made by the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, also applies to school staff. Private school regulators in Abu Dhabi and Dubai have not yet announced guidelines.
Pupils aged 12 and over and anyone who works in government schools must have a negative PCR result no more than 96 hours before the start of term. Face masks are not needed outside but are required indoors. Social distancing restrictions are now being left to the discretion of schools. Those who come into close contact with an infected person do not need to isolate and can attend school if they do not have symptoms. In Abu Dhabi, a green status on the Al Hosn app will be necessary.
Taken together, these rules are a reflection of a vastly improved situation. But vigilance is still needed to keep new infections at the current low. There were only 602 diagnosed cases on Wednesday, for example, and no Covid-19 related deaths.
This should be easy enough to maintain, with the continued approach. For almost three years, UAE policies have been at the heart of one of the most successful Covid-19 strategies globally. The country's swift action at the beginning of the pandemic, to contain the danger, was followed by one of the quickest vaccination programmes in the world. This led to a re-opening that progressed relatively quickly, and which maintained momentum. There were no drastic lurches backwards and forwards as seen in some countries.
With the economy opening to international travel sooner than many others, the Emirates also gave the world a model for safely entering what has come to be known as the "new normal". We are still in that phase. Schools in particular, which by design involve so much mixing, can continue to set that example on August 29. By doing so, in the coming year, pupils and staff are paving the way for an even more resilient response to the virus.