Watch out for the stop signal of school bus or pay Dh1,000 fine in Abu Dhabi
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Dubai: The new school term started in the UAE at the beginning of January, with children across the UAE returning to campuses. While some schools provided options for parents to select between online learning and on-campus classes, others continued to offer distance education to pupils.

However, with the possibility of a COVID-19 infection still lingering, parents might be confused about what they should do in case their child is attending on campus classes and comes in contact with a positive case. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) issued detailed guidelines on what parents should do in case their child either tests positive for COVID-19, starts showing symptoms of an infection or comes in close contact with a suspected positive case. Here is all you need to know to keep your child and school campuses safe during the pandemic.

General instructions for parents

The Dubai Health Authority stressed that it is important for parents to have knowledge of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

What are the symptoms?
1. Fever equal to or higher than 37.5˚C
2. Coughing
3. Pain in the body
4. Shortness and difficulty in breathing
5. Sore throat
6. Runny nose
7. Diarrhea
8. Nausea
9. Headache
10. Loss of the sense of smell and taste

DHA also urged parents to adhere to all the health instructions issued by the school and the concerned authorities, including the following:

1. Do NOT send your child to school when symptoms appear or if your child has been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19.

2. Avoid attending large gatherings and parties and stay away from crowded areas that can expose your child and you to the COVID-19 infection.

3. Educate your children about COVID-19 signs and symptoms and precautionary measures.

4. Students above six years of age should wear a mask.

5. Provide your child with an adequate number of masks and sanitisers wherever they go.

6. Regularly update the travel and health history form whenever you and your family travel abroad.

7. Prevent the spread of panic, rumours or misinformation.

What should I do if my child starts developing COVID-19 symptoms?

DHA also provided various scenarios that a parent may face, if his or her child starts showing signs of an infection. These include the different stages of a pupil’s daily routine, from getting ready for school, to travelling and while they are on campus.

If your child starts developing COVID-19 symptoms at home:

1. Your child must stay at home.

2. You must inform the school immediately.

3. You must seek medical advice and request a Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for your child before returning to school.

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If the result is negative:

1. Send your child to school only after your child is free of symptoms.

2. Submit the PCR test result and sick leave/attendance certificate upon your child’s return to school.

If the result is positive:

1. Parents should inform the school immediately if the result is positive.

2. Follow medical instructions and adhere to isolation precautions.

3. Your child’s school will provide your child with distant/ virtual learning.

4. Upon returning to school; provide a COVID-19 Clearance Certificate from the treating doctor or you can call Dubai Health Authority’s Helpline 800 342 to obtain the certificate.

5. Close contacts to your child (such as siblings, other family members, classmates and friends) must adhere to home quarantine (10 days) and follow all the below mentioned instructions with regard to close contacts.

What is a PCR test and how is it done for children?
The Reverse Transcription Polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test is done using a nasal swab, where a medical professional takes a sample from the upper part of one’s nose using a synthetic fibre swab, which looks similar to a long cotton bud. The swab has to go quite far back along the nasal passage, and is rotated around to collect an adequate sample.
For children, UAE's healh authorities have begun conducting saliva tests. Instead of the nasal swab test, which takes a specimen from the uppermost part of your nose and can cause slight discomfort, the saliva test takes the specimen from the mouth. This is a more comfortable option for children.

While on their way to school

If your child starts developing COVID-19 symptoms when using transportation to get to school, this is the course of action parents should take.

Private transport:

1. Parents and companions should observe children for any signs and symptoms during the journey to and from school.

2. If any signs and symptoms appear, the child must return home, seek medical advice and inform the school immediately.

3. Adhere to the above procedures depending on whether the test result is positive or negative.

Before getting on the school bus:

1. Keep the student at home.

2. Seek medical advice.

3. Inform the school immediately.

While riding the bus:

1. The student showing symptoms should be seated at the front of the bus and the health and safety officer at school will be notified.

2. The school health and safety officer must take the child to the isolation room at school upon arrival.

3. The school must inform the parent to collect the child and take the child home. The school must also request the parents to seek immediate medical advice.

4. Parents must cooperate with the school by taking the child immediately and they should follow the medical instructions.

5. Parents must adhere to the above procedures regardless of whether the test result is positive or negative.

While at school:

1. Your child will be immediately taken to the isolation room (a designated room to separate a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case from the rest of the students until the parent/ guardian arrives).

2. Your child will be assessed by the school doctor/nurse.

3. The school will contact you to take your child home immediately.

4. Seek medical advice and get a PCR test done for your child.

5. Adhere to the above procedures depending on whether the test result is positive or negative.

If your child is a close contact to a COVID-19 positive case

In case there is a positive COVID-19 case in school, DHA in collaboration with the school will investigate the case, trace contacts and inform you if your child has been in contact with the case.

Who is a close contact?
Any individual who was within a distance of two meters or less of a COVID-19 infected person for 15 minutes or more.

If your child is identified as a close contact to a positive COVID-19 case outside the school; you should inform the school immediately and adhere to home quarantine for 10 days from the date of the last contact with the infected person.

Steps that parents of a close contact should follow

1. Home-quarantine for a period of 10 days.

2. Monitor your child for COVID-19 signs and symptoms during this period.

3. A close contact, who does not show signs and symptoms during the 10 days of home quarantine, can return to school after completing the full home quarantine period.

4. Close contacts are not required to do a PCR test unless they show signs and symptoms of COVID-19 during the quarantine period. In such a situation, they should immediately seek medical advice, get the PCR test done and inform the school about the PCR test result.

5. The school will assist your child with distance/virtual learning; therefore, encourage your child to commit to distance learning.

6. Around two days before returning to school, the school doctor / nurse will virtually evaluate your child to ensure that he/she does not have any signs and symptoms.

7. After the virtual evaluation, if your child is allowed to return to school, your child must go to the school clinic upon arrival to evaluate his/her health condition in order to resume learning activities in school.