What are the new back to school Covid rules?

From vaccination and PCR requirements to masks and remote learning, here's what you need to know before the new academic year begins

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Hundreds of thousands of pupils across the UAE have begun the new school year today, August 29, and with new Covid-19 rules in place, parents and teachers need to know what is required for the first day of term.

Here we answer some FAQs to make the transition back to school as stress-free as possible.

Who needs to be vaccinated to go back to school?

Many children aged 16 and over, as well as all school staff and teachers, must be vaccinated against Covid-19 to return to school after the summer, the Ministry of Education says.

They are required to have had two doses of a Covid-19 shot to enter schools in all emirates apart from Dubai, unless they have a verified exemption certificate.

Children aged 3 to 15 do not have to be vaccinated to return to school but are eligible to receive the shot.

Officials have urged pupils to sign up to be inoculated as soon as possible to avoid delays in returning to class.

Pupils across the UAE apart from Dubai will have a 30 day grace period to take the coronavirus vaccine before regular PCR testing becomes mandatory.

The 30-day grace period would give families until the end of September for their children to get both shots.

If pupils aged 16 and over are not vaccinated, they must continue remote learning.

In Dubai, authorities do not require pupils to be vaccinated to attend school.

Who needs a green pass on Al Hosn app to return to school?

Pupils in the capital aged 16 and over must be vaccinated to enter their school and their status will be shown on Al Hosn app.

Private school pupils in Abu Dhabi who are aged 12 and above must take a PCR test every two weeks to return to school. This will activate the green pass on the Al Hosn app.

The rules have been included in a guide for parents issued by Abu Dhabi's Department of Education and Knowledge, the emirate's private school regulator, before the new academic year begins.

Do children have to wear a face mask at school?

Children aged 6 and over must wear a mask at school, as well as in all public spaces. The rule also applies to adults.

Masks can be removed when a pupil sits down to eat, but must be kept on throughout classes.

Who needs a PCR test to go back to school?

The most significant recent development is weekly PCR tests for all pupils over 12 who have not received the coronavirus vaccine.

In Abu Dhabi, children aged between 3 and 12 who have not received the vaccine will be tested every month. Saliva tests, rather than PCR swabs, have been used on younger children in recent months.

In the capital, pupils aged 12 and over and school staff will also have to undergo PCR tests within 96 hours of returning from school holidays, including Eid, winter, summer and spring breaks.

In Dubai, all pupils must declare their recent travel history by completing the Dubai Health Authority form online.

Pupils who have returned from abroad also require a negative result from a PCR test taken within 48 hours to return to the classroom.

If they do not have a negative test result, they will be required to do distance learning for 10 days from their arrival date.

Private school staff in Dubai who are eligible for a shot but choose not to be vaccinated need to take a PCR test every week.

In Sharjah, all school staff and pupils aged 12 and over must have a negative PCR test result to return, Sharjah Private Education Authority said.

Staff and teachers should have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine unless they have a medical condition that makes them exempt.

Those exempt from taking a shot will need a doctor’s report and must take a weekly PCR test.

Can parents refuse to send their children back to school?

Many schools are still offering remote learning for families who do not wish for their children to return to the classroom. Parents should check with schools to find out whether this is an option for them.

If a school is not offering online lessons, or a child does not qualify to continue distance learning, they need to attend school in person.

Is it safe to send kids back to school?

Yes. It is safe to send children back to school as long as parents, pupils, teachers and school staff adhere to the safety measures put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The number of new daily cases is at the lowest level since December 2020.

Updated: August 29, 2021, 9:49 AM