Face masks and close-contact quarantine Covid rules stay in place in Abu Dhabi schools

For now, all children named as close contacts of positive cases must isolate for 10 days

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Pupils seated for the Mathematic, grade 11  exam hall at Gems Cambridge International School in Baniyas. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

No changes have yet been made to rules regarding face masks and close contacts at private schools in Abu Dhabi, but regulators said they are under review.

On Friday, the UAE government said it had begun unwinding many restrictions that had been in place for almost two years as the country recovers from the pandemic.

The decisions ended quarantine for close contacts and made face masks optional outside, among other changes.

Education regulators told The National that the requirement to wear a mask in playgrounds and other outside areas of schools remains in place in the capital.

They are being reviewed in co-operation with the relevant health authorities and concerned authorities in Abu Dhabi
Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek)

“They are being reviewed in co-operation with the relevant health authorities and concerned authorities in Abu Dhabi and will be announced in due course,” said a spokesman for Abu Dhabi's Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek).

For the moment, all children who are named close contacts of positive cases must still quarantine for 10 days.

Face masks are mandatory both inside for all schools, and outside for all institutions except those with Blue Schools status.

The Covid-19 safety scheme, introduced in November, enforces a colour-coded tier system that allows schools with the highest vaccination rates to drop some restrictions.

There are four tiers: orange, yellow, green and blue.

Schools advance through the tiers, from orange (less than 50 per cent of school population vaccinated), to yellow (50-64 per cent), then green (65-84 per cent), and finally blue (85 per cent and above) as vaccination rates increase.

Schools enjoy additional privileges for each tier.

According to Adek’s website, 44 per cent of pupils are vaccinated in Abu Dhabi.

Two-thirds of Abu Dhabi schools — 66.5 per cent — remain in the orange tier. That means physical distancing and masks are both mandatory, and pupils are arranged into bubbles.

In the case of orange schools, it takes three cases to close a class, four classes and/or eight cases to close a macrobubble (which include several years); or 10 per cent of all attendees testing positive to close the school for seven days.

Almost 20 per cent of Abu Dhabi schools — 19.8 per cent — are in the yellow category. The main difference is the bar is slightly higher for closures of classes, macrobubbles and the whole school in terms of the number of cases.

Only 9.3 per cent of schools are in the green category, which affords more leniency still in terms of closures of classes, macrobubbles and the whole school in terms of the number of cases.

Just 4.4 per cent of all schools in Abu Dhabi are in the top tier of Blue Schools. In that tier, individual classes are not closed due to cases, but a macrobubble can be closed if there are eight classes and/or 16 cases; and the entire school is closed for three days if 15 per cent of all attendees have Covid.

The other significant benefit of the tier, which is reserved for Blue Schools only, is the removal of masks outdoors.

Grace Valley Indian School in Al Ain became the first to hit the milestone 85 per cent vaccination mark, in November, weeks after it was introduced.

Sinopharm has been available for children age 3 and above since August.

Appointments for Pfizer-BioNTech for use in children age 5 to 11 were made available in the UAE at the start of February.

What else does Blue tier status mean?

* Pupils can remove masks outdoors

* Physical distancing measures for pupils can be removed

* All field trips allowed (also for green-tier schools)

* Bus capacity back to 100 per cent (also for green schools)

* Duration of school closure for Covid-19 outbreak capped at seven days (also for green schools)

* Class/bubble sizes set at 25 (kindergarten to foundation stage) and 30 (grade 1/year 2 and above)

* Events such as school assemblies, graduation ceremonies are permitted

* Inter-school activities, such as sports competitions, allowed with other Blue Schools (such activities contained to the school approved at green level)

Updated: February 28, 2022, 11:02 AM