Just two days after the new school academic year began, the first COVID-19 scare struck on September 1.
The UAE’s Ministry of Education and the National Authority for Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management said some schools would migrate to distance learning classes after staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
The authorities did not name the schools or specify how many school staff members tested positive. It is also not clear if those tested positive includes students.
In recent days, the UAE has witnessed a spike in cases as authorities ramp up testing to include vast sections of the society. The authorities are also closely monitoring infection spikes among various socio-economic and age groups, including youngsters
The cases were found during mass screening of teachers, administrative staff and students ahead of the opening of schools nationwide on Sunday. In Dubai alone, health officials said, 35,000 teachers and school staff were tested. It was widely expected that positive cases would emerge during mass testing and once on-campus classes resume.
Recent infection outbreak experiences in countries where classes resumed show that it is impossible to make school campuses totally coronavirus-free. Just one infected individual is capable of bringing the virus to the campus.
However, what is important is that isolated positive cases must be prevented from becoming a full scale outbreak. That is why, UAE’s health safety protocol for schools has clearly outlined measures for prevention, detection and isolation.
The protocol includes detailed guidelines for school management, teachers, students, parents and transport companies. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders that this protocol is followed in full and accountability fixed at all levels.
Monitoring infection spikes
In recent days, the UAE has witnessed a spike in cases as authorities ramp up testing to include vast sections of the society. The authorities are also closely monitoring infection spikes among various socio-economic and age groups, including youngsters.
In the coming days, if more cases are found among school staff or students, health authorities will have to re-look at prevention strategies. Among other steps, officials can consider allowing only senior students to attend in-campus classes as it is harder to enforce safety protocols in junior classes.
We are going through an extra-ordinary period in mankind’s history. A life full of routines and mundane things has suddenly become complex and sometimes hard to comprehend.
Schools, when operating at full capacity, have one of the highest concentration of human bodies in a close environment.
Governments and experts worldwide agree that prolonged distance learning is not an effective replacement for on-campus learning and that is why countries are reopening schools.
However, both safety protocols and pandemic response systems must remain flexible and be ready for all eventualities.