Coronavirus: 41 new cases in UAE as distance learning extended

Schools and universities will remain closed until end of academic year

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The UAE announced 41 new cases of coronavirus and two deaths related to the illness on Monday.

And the Ministry of Education announced that schools and universities would continue distance learning and keep campuses closed until the end of the academic year.

On Monday, Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokeswoman for the UAE’s health sector, said the 41 new cases brought the country’s total to 611.

Dr Al Hosani said all were stable except for two patients in intensive case.

She said the two who died were an Arab man, 48, who had health issues including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems, and an Asian man, 42, who had a heart condition.

The UAE has now reported five deaths from Covid-19.

Only wear [a face mask] if you are sick and do not share it with others

Dr Al Hosani said three people had recovered from the virus.

The Filipino and two Indians brought the country’s number of recoveries to 61.

The new cases were mainly caused by local transmissions but included patients who had recently arrived in the UAE.

Dr Al Hosani said one person was found to have infected 31 others in the country.

This was uncovered after the Ministry of Health and Prevention traced people with whom the patient had contact.

The Department of Health Abu Dhabi, dismissed as untrue reports by some news outlets about the number of cases of Covid-19 in the UAE.

"These reports contradict with the announcements made by the official authorities," the department said.

In a televised broadcast, Dr Al Hosani clarified the health authorities' stance on wearing masks and gloves in public.

“Wearing masks is mandatory for people who are displaying symptoms of respiratory illness, including coughing, shortness of breath and fever, and should only be worn busy public places," she said.

"There is no need for anyone else to be wearing masks."

Dr Al Hosani said face masks should not be shared because they could transfer the virus between wearers.

“After it has been worn, dispose of the mask in a sealed bag,” she said.

Dr Al Hosani said the advice from health authorities was to wash hands frequently, rather than wear gloves.

She said gloves could spread the virus if the wearer touched their face.

Dr Al Hosani stressed the importance of everyone adhering to the precautionary measures put in place, including social distancing and staying home unless absolutely necessary.

She said there had not been enough studies globally to indicate if someone who recovered from Covid-19 could be infected again.

Dr Al Hosani said recovered patients in the UAE are told to isolate themselves for at least 14 days after they are released from hospital.

On Monday, Dr Amna Al Dahak, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education, said distance learning would continue, with schools and universities closed until the end of the academic year.

The decision is for public and private schools and was made after guidance from the UAE Cabinet.

"The decision comes with the aim of ensuring the continuity of education in the country under exceptional circumstances, while maintaining the security and safety of our pupils and the school community," Dr Al Dahak said.

She said the ministry was developing a smart solution for final assessments and examinations.

It was also working to improve distance learning programmes and will be introducing a study schedule from Wednesday, after feedback from more than 185,000 pupils and parents.

Dr Al Dahak said education was a priority in the UAE and for the country's leadership, but it was up to pupils and parents to commit to studying for the rest of the academic year.

The UAE extends distance learning to end of term

The UAE extends distance learning to end of term

"Our responsibility today as parents is to provide the appropriate educational environment for our children in the home, and to encourage them to commit to and continue in distance education," she said.

“Our success is linked to your commitment to learning at home. You are the UAE’s future and we hope to celebrate your good results together at the end of the year."

Alicia Hol, an Australian mother of three in Dubai, said the extension of distance learning was the right and responsible thing to do.

"Each one of us has to do our part to contain coronavirus,” said Ms Hol, whose daughters are aged between 8 and 14.

"We have to accept that we don't have control and this measure is to protect us.”

Despite the ruling being made to protect pupils, some took to social media on Monday to demand a reduction in school fees.

Ms Hol said she was willing to pay school fees, but added that her husband's employers contributed to their daughters’ tuition.

"My perspective is privileged but I do believe there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes for the distance learning," she said.

Alicia with her daughter Brooke Hol, 8.
First day of distance learning at the Hol family’s household.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

Alicia Hol with her daughter Brooke. Reem Mohammed / The National

Alison Rego, 37, a single parent in Sharjah, works during the day and helps her daughter, 7, with online lessons in the evening.

Ms Rego, from India, will have to find a nanny to help now that schools will remain closed for the rest of the year.

"I am a working mum so it is a struggle," she said. "But, we have to stay at home until we flatten the curve.

"I would probably be more worried if I had to send my child to school.”

Ms Rego said children under the age of 10 should have their school week reduced to three days to help parents manage their time.

She also suggested schools find a way have children taught in groups so that they did not feel isolated at home.

"Schools should give at least 50 per cent discount on fees if children are not going to school," Ms Rego said.

"It is not fair to charge full fees."

A British working mother said her children, aged 11 and 16, would miss meeting their friends during months of distance learning.

"They are communicating with their friends but I avoid play dates," the mother said.

"My children are older now but with online schooling I can only imagine how difficult it is for working mothers who have young children.”

She said it would not be fair for schools to charge full fees for the rest of the year.

Schools should give at least 50 per cent discount on fees if children are not going to school

"A lot of things are not provided such as sports facilities or IT facilities.

"I have taken paid leave and many of my friends who worked in small businesses are struggling.

"School fees for the next term should be reduced. That would be the logical thing to do. Schools cannot expect full fees from parents."

The ministry initially closed schools and universities for a month, starting on March 8, to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The first two weeks of school closures were used for spring break, which was initially to begin on March 29.

The second two weeks were dedicated to distance learning.

Private and public schools brought in e-learning programmes to teach pupils from home, using videos and setting online tasks.

Pupils were set to return to school on April 5.

Exams have been cancelled or postponed worldwide, leading some universities to announce they would accept predicted grades or carry out entrance exams for final-year pupils.

It is unclear how pupils will be assessed for internal end-of-year exams.

This week, the Ministry of Health and Prevention revealed that the UAE has done more than 220,000 laboratory tests for coronavirus.

The latest analysis of global figures has the UAE sixth in the world for population testing, regarded as the gold standard for limiting contagion.

Testing will continue at an even greater pace after Abu Dhabi opened its first drive-through testing centre in Zayed Sports City.

More centres are due to open across the rest of the country, including Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Al Ain and Al Dhafra, with each capable of testing 600 people a day.

On Monday, Dr Al Hosani said the centres were a safe way to test people because they did not entail visiting a hospital, reducing the risk of contamination.

She said the test took only about five minutes to conduct, which allows health workers to examine more people.

Dr Al Hosani reminded the public that the centres would prioritise the elderly, people with underlying health conditions, those presenting symptoms of Covid-19 and pregnant women.

She said an appointment must be made before visiting the centre and called on the public not to rush to get tested if they were not displaying symptoms of a respiratory illness