Dubai private schools scrap quarantine for close contacts and masks outside

Move comes after UAE authorities made wearing of face masks outdoors optional

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Private schools in Dubai no longer require close contacts of Covid-19 cases to quarantine under new rules.

Pupils are now also permitted to remove face masks when outside as part of the changes, which came days after the UAE began unwinding restrictions to restrict the spread of the coronavirus.

As of February 26, masks have been optional outside across the UAE.

Quarantine for close contacts was also scrapped in all emirates as part of the changes, which were announced on Friday.

In Abu Dhabi quarantine was replaced with daily PCR testing for five days. There is no similar requirement to test in Dubai.

The new quarantine and mask rules were not automatically applicable to schools.

Abu Dhabi is yet to unveil any changes, so both quarantine for close contacts and masks outdoors remain, at least for the time being.

The first confirmation of changes to restrictions in the sector in Dubai, which previously required pupils to wear masks outside and close contacts to quarantine for 10 days, came on Tuesday night, when schools were informed of the update.

Under the changes quarantine has been removed. But there are guidelines based on scenarios.

*Pupils with Covid must quarantine for 10 days

*Their close contacts will be identified by the school and informed, but they can physically attend school if they do not have symptoms

*Any close contacts who show Covid symptoms can only return if they are symptom free - even if their PCR test is negative

Face masks are now optional in outside areas of school grounds.

But they remain mandatory inside for staff and children over the age of 6, the authority said.

And masks must still be worn in all public indoor areas, including shopping malls - and schools.

On Sunday, Expo 2020 organisers announced face masks would be optional in outdoor areas of the world's fair site.

However, although the wearing of masks outside is no longer compulsory, visitors are encouraged to continue wearing them in “entertainment venues with large attendances”.

Mask rules remain in place in Abu Dhabi

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

Education regulators told The National this week 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 and will be announced in due course,” said a spokesman for Abu Dhabi's Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek).

School continue cautious recovery

The directive is the latest step forward in the education sector's recovery from the pandemic.

Schools across the country closed their doors and switched to remote learning in March 2020 as Covid-19 rapidly spread across the globe.

Dubai's private schools moved to end all distance learning by October 3, 2021 as part of efforts to return to normality.

However, a number of schools temporarily resumed online lessons in the first weeks of 2022 as a precautionary measure due to the rise of the Omicron variant.

Confidence in the UAE's steady recovery from the pandemic has grown in recent weeks, as daily infection numbers continue to fall.

The UAE recorded 478 Covid-19 cases on Tuesday - the first time daily figures had dropped below 500 in nine weeks.

No deaths related to the virus were reported for the third day in a row.

Updated: March 02, 2022, 7:43 AM