A student getting a PCR test at an Abu Dhabi school following the launch of in-school testing on Tuesday, September 7

Abu Dhabi: Trained professionals have started offering routine PCR testing across private and charter schools in Abu Dhabi from today.

Both nasal and saliva-based PCR tests are being offered free of charge under this screening initiative enabled by education sector regulator, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek), in collaboration with the Department of Health (DoH).

Screening requirements

The school-based tests will allow students physically attending their classes to comply with COVID-19 precautionary measures mandated by the National Crisis, Emergency and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA).

The requirements, announced last month, require all aged under four years students to be tested for COVID-19 every month. Students aged at least 12 years will be screened every 14 days for the first month of schooling, and then monthly if they are vaccinated. Unvaccinated students aged 12 years or more, and those with vaccination exemptions, will have to undertake PCR-testing every week.

The tests are also offered free of charge for students across public and private testing centres in Abu Dhabi. In-school testing however aims to make the process easier for the significant number of families that have chosen to send children back to school campuses this term.

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Protecting the community

“The number of students returning to physical school across the emirate is high. As the education sector moves steadily towards full recovery and a return to normalcy, protecting the health and safety of our school community of students, educators and staff remains our highest priority. We continue to work in collaboration with all private and public stakeholders to implement stringent health and safety standards, whilst also minimising the impact on school operations and safeguarding the continuity of students’ in-school learning,” said Amer Al Hammadi, Adek undersecretary.

“Through close consultation with schools and stakeholders, we identified the need for a robust PCR testing model to alleviate pressure on parents and students. Therefore, our collaboration with DoH will provide a COVID-19 PCR test solution across the entire school community. This test model will improve operational efficiencies and enable students and educators to access tests to schedule,” he added.

Dr Jamal Al Kaabi, DoH undersecretary, said earlier that COVID-19 preventive measures had been instrumental in facilitating students’ safe return to schools.

“In collaboration with the Adek, we have been able to provide a healthy and safe environment, not only for our students but for their educators and families alike. By facilitating ease of access to routine testing for everyone within the education ecosystem in the emirate, students are able to achieve continuity of education without any interruption to their academic journey,” he explained.

Saliva tests for younger students

While students aged 12 years or more must undergo nasal PCR tests, younger students and students of determination can opt for saliva tests. Schools are responsible for notifying parents about student testing schedules.

Dr VV Abdulkader, principal at The Model School in Abu Dhabi, said the school had today welcomed testing professionals.

“We arranged a hall for the testing, and older students underwent nasal PCR tests on campus today,” he told Gulf News.

Parents had earlier expressed their appreciation of the organised and safe manner in which children had been welcomed back to classrooms in Abu Dhabi, and welcomed in-school testing going forward.

Other precautions

In addition to routine PCR testing, schools have to ensure that students physically attending school who are aged 16 years or more are vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, all staff members physically present in Abu Dhabi schools this term have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In order to maintain student and staff safety, parents who wish to enter school grounds must present their Green Pass, as well as a PCR test with 96-hour validity.

The Adek has said there are hefty penalties for schools that fail to adhere to the safety standards and protocols, ranging from warnings to fines of up to Dh250,000 for acts of complete negligence.