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UAE schools to close if Covid-19 cases spike – education ministry

UAE schools to close if Covid-19 cases spike – education ministry

The Ministry of Education has outlined extensive guidelines, listing its contingency plans in case of a spike in the Covid-19 infection rate

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Schools in the UAE will close and transition to distance learning, should an increase in Covid-19 cases be detected among students and staff.

Days ahead of schools reopening across the country, the Ministry of Education has outlined extensive guidelines, listing its contingency plans in case of a spike in the Covid-19 infection rate, according to local media reports.

The ministry’s plans comprise of how schools would operate at a reduced capacity, and even shut shop should the number of Covid-19 case surge.

The guidelines outline four levels of risk – low, moderate, high and extreme – based on statistical calculations, determining the threat to schools linked to the number of new Covid-19 infections in the community.

In the event of an ‘extreme risk’ to safety, which is when a minimum of 36 cases per 100,000 population are detected in seven days, schools will be closed, halting in-class lessons. In such an event, full-time distance learning will be enforced.

Thirty-six cases per 100,000 people would work out to be roughly 3,600 infections in the UAE, which has a population of close to 10 million.

If just one case is detected, the rooms used by anyone diagnosed with the virus are to be temporarily closed and sterilised, with all contacts quarantined.

In case of any additional cases detected anywhere on the school site, the education facility will close and all students will transfer to distance learning for no less than 14 days.

The risk levels, defined by the ministry, are as follows:

• Low risk is up to 5 cases per 100,000 population in seven days. In this event, schools can operate as normal – with social distancing and the wearing of face masks.

• Moderate risk, defined as 6 to 20 cases per 100,000 population in seven days, would require schools to function at half their usual capacity and provide distance learning and homeschooling options to parents.

• High risk – when there are between 21 and 35 cases per 100,000 people – schools must scale back capacity to 15 per cent and only allow students of parents who are frontline workers or have no childcare to attend classes in person.

The procedures highlight potential hot spots within the school premises such as classrooms and common areas, and the possibility of transmission in crowded places such as canteens and entrance and exit points.

“[There must be] a distance of 1.5 metres between pupils in classrooms, laboratories and learning resources rooms, and a distance of 2m between pupils in other facilities of the educational establishments,” the guidelines read.

Meanwhile, a classroom cannot accommodate more than 15 pupils, the protocols suggest.

School stakeholders are urged to be cognisant of the risk of infection for workers in shared rooms for “long periods of time” and make note of vulnerable students and staff, such as those with chronic illnesses and teachers who are pregnant.

The framework also makes it mandatory for all members of the school population aged 12 and over to take a Covid-19 test prior to the start of the academic year.

Furthermore, dates for sterilisation of the school campus must be confirmed and plastic barriers must be installed in areas where maintaining a distance of two metres may prove difficult.

The Ministry of Education protocols confirm that no group activities –  trips, sports or camping – can be held, while offering parents the option of continuing distance learning for the first term.

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