As parks, pools and children’s play areas open up across the UAE, it could be easy to forget that we are still in the throes of a pandemic.
While COVID-19 numbers in the emirates have reduced dramatically, and children who were previously told to remain at home are now allowed to re-join the outside world, officials are keen to remind parents of the need for caution, especially in the run-up to the Eid Al Adha festivities.
Outdoor play dates
When asked about whether outdoor play dates between unrelated individuals are allowed, the Dubai government told Gulf News, “As the cases of COVID-19 have dropped, Children’s play areas across all parks were reopened. While play dates may take place at parks, social distancing rules must be followed.”
It may be hot outside, but it is far safer - in terms of the virus risk - to be playing outside than inside, says Dr Fiona Rennie, Family Medicine Specialist at Genesis Healthcare Clinic in Dubai. “Outdoor playgrounds and pools have the benefit of fresh air and more space between people than indoor spaces. If you are going to leave home than it is safer to be outside, where the airflow can help dilute the virus, than indoors, where there is less airflow.”
Indoor play dates and parties
When asked about indoor play dates between friends rather than family members, the Dubai government told Gulf News, “Social gatherings are still not allowed for the safety of the individuals. Close families may gather while taking all precautionary measures seriously like wearing masks, social distancing of two meters and washing/sanitizing hands regularly. For children, it is not easy to control their practices while they are gathering and playing, especially at homes when they feel more relaxed.”
The need to prevent a resurgence
As we all know by now, the COVID-19 virus spreads primarily by human-to-human transmission of secretions of saliva and respiratory droplets, which are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings.
While social distancing measures are gradually relaxing in most countries where the virus has been brought under control, the World Health Organisation notes that in some situations, increases in cases have been subsequently observed.
The UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority stated on July 27, “We are still seeing many cases of COVID-19 in the same family, from citizens and residents, as a result of not following guidelines, meeting at gatherings where people aren’t physically distancing, not wearing masks or adhering to precautionary measures.”
It also added “Children under 1 are more likely to develop complications due to the immaturity of their immune system, so extreme precautions must be taken with this age group.”
While there has been some research to say that children tend to suffer from a less severe form of COVID-19 and it may be tempting to introduce a new baby to friends and family, this is a timely reminder to be even more cautious with infants below 12 months. Visiting pregnant women, the elderly and those with underlying conditions should also be avoided.
Dubai government advice on children socialising
Practicing physical/social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands remains imperative in ensuring one is protected, and those rules must still be followed
The above precautions also apply to children: parents must ensure their children’s hands are clean at all times when they’re in public, and they should have masks on if they’re older than six years old.