NAT CORONA1 AIRPORT33-1580740932931
A monitor displays a thermographic image of passengers passing through a quarantine station at Narita Airport in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Chinese officials moved to halt travel from Wuhan, essentially locking down a city of 11 million people, as they try to stop the spread of a new SARS-like virus that’s already killed 17 and infected hundreds around the world. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg Image Credit: Bloomberg

Abu Dhabi: The UAE Ministry of Education has called upon students returning from China to stay at home for 14 days.

In a tweet on Monday, the education regulator said the directive also applies to teachers and education professionals coming back to the UAE from the country ravaged by a coronavirus outbreak.

UAE announced its first cases of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection last week in five people returning from China. The infected individuals have been quarantined for a 14-day period after arrival, given that the virus is believed to display symptoms between two to 14 days after infection.

The ministry’s recommendation follows the same advice issued by health authorities in the country on February 1.

In a joint statement issued by the Ministry of Health and Prevention, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health and the Dubai Health Authority, students and staff were reassured that schools and universities are still considered to be risk-free.

Schools are risk-free

“The educational environment in schools and universities is considered safe, and the use of masks is not recommended under normal circumstances,” the statement said.

Date of arrival

The advisory further stated that students and staff members who have returned from China, or have had a family member return from the country, must be excused from school for 14 days after the date of arrival, regardless of the presence of symptoms. In addition, other students and staff displaying symptoms like fever, coughing or shortness of breath should be referred to the school nurse for evaluation and medical action.

“It is recommended to avoid close contact with symptomatic people who have flu-like symptoms. Parents are [also] advised to keep their children at home if respiratory symptoms like cough and cold appear,” it added.

The 2019-nCoV, first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has now infected more than 17,000 people worldwide, and has killed more than 360 people in China. One Chinese national who had travelled to the Philippines also died.

More cases expected

In the first regional conference about the outbreak held yesterday by the World Health Organisation, experts said that they expected the number of cases in the Middle East to increase, even though only the UAE has detected infections till date.

“Because of the regional trade and travel with China, [and the absence of travel restrictions so far], we expect that more cases will be registered. But countries are prepared for this, and we are working with nations that are conflict-ridden or have low levels of preparedness,” Dr Dalia Samhouri, manager for country health preparedness and international health regulations at the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office of the WHO.