The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek), which regulates 235 private schools and 29 charter schools in the emirate, announced the updated safety protocols last week. Image Credit: Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: When children return to the classrooms in Abu Dhabi on Monday (April 11), they will no longer need to maintain physical distancing on the premises. Facemasks will still be mandatory in indoor spaces though.

The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek), which regulates 235 private schools and 29 charter schools in the emirate, announced the updated measures last week. These were based on the declining COVID-19 infection numbers reported in the UAE, which prompted the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee for the COVID-19 Pandemic to allow for an emirate-wide easing of precautionary measures.

For many schools, the upcoming term begins April 11.

If you are preparing to send your child back to school in Abu Dhabi, here is all you need to know about what to expect this term.

Updated measures

In-person learning: Attending school in person is now mandatory for all children at all grade levels. Limited exemptions will only be provided to students who present an attested ‘high risk’ medical report that confirms their inability to attend school in-person.

PCR testing: All students, teachers and staff will have to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result obtained within 96 hours on the first day of school. Tests are available free of charge at the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) drive-through centres, and at certain private health facilities. 

Follow-up testing: Unvaccinated students aged 16 years and older will need to undertake a PCR test every seven days. Vaccinated students aged 16 years or more, as well as teachers and staff, will need to take a PCR test every 14 days, whereas students aged less than 16 years will take a PCR test every 30 days.

Facemasks: Facemasks must be worn by all students in Grade 1 to 12 when they are indoors. Children can however take off their masks when they are outdoors.

Physical distancing: Schools will be allowed to eliminate physical distancing across their premises. This is expected to allow institutions to return to full capacity.

Close contacts: Students, teachers and staff who come in close contact with a confirmed positive case will be required to test on Day 1 and Day 7 only, or when they start showing symptoms. They need not remain in quarantine.

School closures: In contrast to the previous two years, classrooms and bubbles will no longer need to shift to distance learning if a positive COVID-19 case is detected within them. Instead, the entire school will close for three days if 15 per cent of its student body tests positive at the same time. Following the completion of the closure, close contact students must adhere to the testing schedule, while students who tested positive have to adopt distance learning till the completion of their isolation procedures.

Sport activities: These are now fully allowed on school premises for students aged 16 years and older.

School trips: Under relevant precautionary measures, these are now allowed for students in all age groups.