Thousands of UAE teachers tested for Covid-19 ahead of return to class on Sunday

Tests have taken place in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and across the country

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: N/A. Standalone. Covid-19/Coronavirus. People get Laser based DPI tests at the Mina Rashid screening center. Wednesday, August 26th, 2020. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Thousands of private school teachers have undergone Covid-19 tests ahead of pupils returning to classrooms on Sunday.

In Abu Dhabi, the Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) is paying for all tests, a total of more than 15,000 teachers and staff, promising that all 205 private schools in the emirate will be tested before pupils return to the classroom.

Annahita Pagdiwalla, principal of the capital's Mayoor Private School, in Al Wathba, said 200 of her staff underwent the PCR nasal swab.

“It will be up to Adek and the Department of Health to decide how frequent the tests are,” she added.

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Tests are very important because it gives us a sense of satisfaction that we will be ready for pupils returning on Sunday

In the capital, primary-age pupils will be back in class from Sunday, with over-12s back in high schools in four weeks' time. Parents have the option to keep their children at home studying via e-learning if they do not feel comfortable sending them back yet.

Ms Pagdiwalla hopes parents feel reassured with the measures being taken.

“The tests are very important because it gives us a sense of satisfaction that we will be ready for pupils returning on Sunday," she said.

“We have done everything we can to be compliant with the rules about reopening classrooms.”

Schools have remained closed to pupils since March and strict restrictions will be in place when pupils return, including the wearing of masks at all times.

Brendan Fulton, executive principal at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, said 1,300 members of staff at the group that owns his school, Taaleem Education, underwent tests this week.

“This had been planned for since last week, and prior to the announcement by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) that all staff now need to be tested before students can return to school,” said Mr Fulton.

“The response from our parent community has been very positive, as they appreciate the lengths to which we are going to ensure that the school is as safe a space as possible when the children return on Sunday.”

Staff at Gems Education, the country's largest private school operator, is screening thousands of teachers and staff.

“The safety of our students and our school community is at the forefront of every decision that we make,” said Gems Wellington Primary School, Dubai, principal Sarah O’Reagan.

“All Gems Education school staff will be Covid-19 PCR tested prior to the first day of school.

“This further layer of safety gives our parents and school community reassurance that it is safe for children to return to school.”

Thermal screenings at entrances, face masks and physical distancing will be mandatory measures when students return.

How children will return to school varies from emirate to emirate, as does testing for pupils.

In Sharjah, pupils of all ages are to be tested over the next two weeks. Pupils will not be physically back in class until mid-September while this is carried out, with e-learning in place until then.

In Abu Dhabi, primary school pupils are back from Sunday and are not required to be tested. High school pupils will not return until late September or early October, and they are required to get tested if over 12.

In Dubai, pupils are not required to be tested, the authorities said this week.

Parents can still opt to keep their children at home to take online lessons in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with many concerned about the risks involved in returning to classrooms.

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