What are the new school Covid testing rules in the UAE?

Requirements for pupils vary between the emirates

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Hundreds of schools in Dubai and Sharjah received the green light to reopen for in-person classes on Monday, January 3, the first day of the new term and the start of the four-and-a-half-day week.

As pupils, parents and teachers start the New Year after a busy winter break, education authorities reminded people about the testing rules for those returning to campus.

As Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the UAE and the world as a result of the new Omicron variant, many pupils and teachers will be required to show proof of a PCR test before heading back to school.

For those returning from overseas trips, some school management boards have also advised parents to book fit-to-fly PCR tests, even if not required by the airline or arrival or departure destination.

Here, The National has put together a checklist of things to remember when returning to school in different emirates this term.

Dubai

All private schools in Dubai resume in-person classes on Monday January 3. Dubai's education regulatory, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, does not require pupils to show proof of a valid negative PCR test upon their return.

However, this is at the discretion of the school.

Quote
We will have many families who will be attempting to fly back to Dubai over the next 72 hours and therefore anticipate that the fit-to-fly PCR test will identify any families that are positive
Richard Drew​, Taaleem Education

It said all school canteens will remain shut for the first two weeks and extracurricular activities, school gatherings such as assemblies and school trips will remain suspended until further notice.

The authority said pupils who have Covid-19 symptoms must not go to school. Instead, schools must give pupils with symptoms the option of distance learning. They may return to school when they no longer show any symptoms and a PCR test is not required.

Sharjah

The Sharjah Private Education Authority has announced that all pupils in the Emirate will return to in-person classes on Monday.

All school employees and all pupils over 12 years old will be required to present a valid negative PCR test result that has been taken not more than 96 hours before entering the facility.

All school trips, classroom and extracurricular activities have also been suspended until further notice.

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi's public and private schools will switch to distance learning during the first two weeks of the second term from January 3.

The emirate's Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee on Tuesday said the decision applied to all pupils at public and private schools.

During the two-week period, testing campaigns will be ramped up for staff and the situation will be monitored in preparation for the return to physical classes, authorities said.

The decision was made as a “precautionary measure to limit the spread of Covid-19 and maintain low infection rates in the emirate".

Officials are yet to say whether testing will be required when pupils return to classes, which was the case when the new academic year began in September 2021.

Ministry of Education

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Education announced that all government school pupils in the UAE will commence distance learning for the first two weeks of the new school term.

Upon review of this, those returning to in-person classes must show proof of a valid negative PCR test result. The test must be taken no more than 96 hours before entering the campus. Those who test positive will not be admitted entry.

The ministry said parents entering schools must show proof of green pass status on the Al Hosn app.

Are face masks still necessary?

Face masks play a crucial role in preventing the spread of Covid-19.

All pupils above the age of six, and all adults at the school, must continue to wear masks properly in line with health and safety protocols.

They can only be removed when eating. In Abu Dhabi schools that have more than 85 per cent of pupils vaccinated, pupils are allowed to take off masks when outside.

School lunches

For the first two weeks of term, Dubai's education authority announced that all canteens and cafeterias in private schools in the city will remain closed.

Parents will need to ensure that their child is sent to school with a packed lunch and snacks for the day.

Updates to the rules will be sent to school leaders, posted on the Knowledge and Human Development Authority social media channels and shared as FAQs on its website.

Physical distancing

Physical distancing requirements for pupils, teachers and staff in most schools is one metre.

Returning families urged to be cautious after flights

At Taaleem’s Jumeira Baccalaureate School in Dubai, principal Richard Drew​ said he was looking forward to receiving pupils back in school under strict safety guidelines.

“We have issued guidance to families about positive test results, close contact tracing and PCR testing,” he said.

“We will have many families who will be attempting to fly back to Dubai over the next 72 hours and therefore anticipate that the fit-to-fly PCR test will identify any families that are positive.”

“Staff have also been contacted as some will be returning from the winter break abroad and therefore the same circumstances apply.”

Those who test positive will remain off campus until they return a negative result.

Updated: January 03, 2022, 12:29 PM
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