School Holidays and Coronavirus Covid-19. An Action Plan for Parents.
Background – School Holidays and Coronavirus Covid-19. An Action Plan for Parents.
Schools are out and times are challenging for families and pupils around the country.
Children are already bored and demanding entertainment and, in some cases, as parents, we just feel that this is the case because of the pressures to makes sure that their holidays are “perfect”.
But life has suddenly also become more complicated and far less normal.
Many of us, as parents, are unsure about what to do under the current Coronavirus Covid-19 health advice.
Is it even safe to take our children out and about, or should we stay locked in barricaded against the outside world and the risks of infection?
Ideally, we all want to think that our children’s learning can continue beyond the classroom. That means finding activities where there is minimal contact and where we can contain the risk of our children – and ourselves as parents, becoming infected.
Fortunately, the weather is still good enough for the outdoors to be an easy option.
Below, we have compiled a list of things to do safely around the emirates which can stimulate and excite our children, physically and mentally, and won’t feel isolating at all.
There is so much pressure on us all as parents. We need to keep our children safe – but we need to protect their mental and physical health too. This is a time when children learn and engage with the world. They need to be physically healthy and need exercise during the school holidays and time away from school.
And these weeks, and probably the many, many months ahead we shall never get back – it is a time for making memories, even if they are less easily made locked up inside or at a distance from our friends and all those around us.
Take the kids to explore the new boardwalk development through the lush green mangroves. There is a wealth of flora and fauna to explore. Just remember to keep your distance from others as it may be busy during the school holidays.
Cycle the Corniche – with fantastic tracks along the length of the Corniche, this is one activity which is fun for all the family. Stop and enjoy the views, or even get creative and make it a photo tour of the Corniche for an alternative to art class.
Sadly, the best available evidence suggests that swimming in the sea and in freshwater is a risk. The virus has been shown to remain in natural freshwater environments and in the sea if there is any level of pollution. Swimming at the swimming pool is safe as chlorine does kill the virus – but communal spread is a risk so close contact to other swimmers, in changing rooms and corridors, will increase your risk and that of your children. The same sorts of risks apply to all water sports.
The Al Qudra cycling track is one of the most ingenious developments in the emirate. Whether you want to do the full 50km loop or just explore a little as you meander around the edges, this is not only a great way to get active, but a beautiful place to experience the desert too. Bring your own bike or hire from Trek, which offers affordable, good quality bikes and helmets for kids and adults.
Hiking in Hatta has never been so easy. Several easy to follow routes begin at Wadi Hub and cater to all levels. Being in the fresh air, this is a wonderful way to experience the stunning natural terrain of the area as well as bond as a family. Geography class, complete!
Mountain biking routes in Hatta are also very well signposted, catering from beginners upwards. Bring your own bike or hire from Wadi Hub.
Hatta Dam has some wonderful activities including cycling. Cheap to hire, they offer a fun activity for all the family, with several options for all levels.
Ras Al Khaimah
During the school holidays we can make the most of the beautiful mountainous scenery in the northern-most emirate. Adventurati Outdoor, which is registered with the tourism authority, run several hikes for all levels in the emirate.
Al Ain is one of the country’s hidden gems. It’s a wonderful place to learn about the country’s history, and is the birthplace of its founder, Sheikh Zayed. Take the little ones to the oasis, the country’s UNESCO World Heritage site, which also houses an educational eco-centre around the oasis’s 147,000 date palms.
The 19th century Al Jahii Fort is one of the largest forts in the UAE, built by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa the First. This beautiful fortification is a fabulous adventure for the little ones to explore as well as the opportunity to add a little history lesson to the trip.
In addition to the plethora of galleries and museums around the city centre, one of the highlights of Sharjah has to be Mleiha Archaeological Centre, where children during the school holidays can learn more about history, nature and culture of the country and its history dating back to the Iron Age. In addition to its massive education centre, there are a range of experiences to thrill the family too, from desert survival courses to trekking.
How to talk about this with the children?
Experts at the Child Mind Institute reassure us that open discussions are important, without sharing too much information. Allow the children to know what’s happening, without frightening them. Support their questions – but try to keep life as normal as possible and stick to routines where you can. Empower the children with knowledge but be age appropriate with what you share. Find the positives, including how the UAE government, schools and all of us together are working together to keep us all safe.
In this together …
Above all, it’s really important to remember that this is a challenging time for everyone. We are all going to go through moments of panic and worry. This is nature’s way of alerting us to risk – so that we remain vigilant in looking after ourselves and our families.
What we must do, however difficult, is to keep our anxieties as limited as possible around children, while explaining gently the importance of the likes of hygiene and why we are not quite as social as we once were.
Trying to maintain a semblance of normality for them is vital, as is showing compassion and tolerance to the community around us.
Remember to take sensible measures:
- basic hygiene – hand washing as well as hand sanitizer. The virus lives on almost everything, so washing hands is a vital first line defense. Washing our hands really does kill it.
- ensure that anyone who feels unwell stays at home and away from others.
- limit physical interaction and try and keep a minimum 3-meter distance from others
- follow a healthy lifestyle including good sleep, healthy food, and staying active.
It can be even more isolating to those of us living abroad, so make the most of video calling (BOTIM still works!) and stay connected, not only with loved ones back home but even just here in the UAE.
Community may be the biggest casualty of the current events so let’s do everything we can to stay united and in contact. It is hard to not shake hands or hug. We can worry that we are appearing unfriendly. But we all now understand that distance saves lives and our apparent formality and reserve is, rather, an extraordinary act of kindness and recognition of the value of others. We want to keep them safe too.
There may come a time in which we have to all isolate ourselves at home. Some of us have also taken the decision to do this. If this happens we must rely on the power of reading to take us to infinite numbers of places, real and imagined. We must appreciate the window to the outside given to us by the Internet and the amazing human capacity to find inspiration in the smallest things.
This is a time in which altruism, simple acts of kindness and thoughtfulness are the only medicines we have to fight this awful virus – let’s use them with abundance. We can still have amazing school holidays and activities with our children – they will just be different. And we should always remember that the biggest thing that our children want from us is not grand trips or expensive toys – but our attention and knowing that we are thinking about them.
This virus is presenting us all with an invisible threat on a scale none of us have experienced before. But it is also presenting us with the opportunity to show the best of ourselves and have quality time with our children in which we have the opportunity to let them know just how much they are loved.
We surely will get through this together – and we must.
Backgrounder – Key facts Today at a Glance and What to Do if you Believe that You or Your Children are Infected or You are Locked Out of the UAE
As of 3 March 2020, the World Health Organisation calculated that the Coronavirus Covid-19 virus has an average 3.4% fatality rate making it 30 times more deadly than the flu virus. The flu virus kills between 290,000 and 650,000 people a year globally. The earliest estimation for global availability of a vaccine is projected to be September 2021.
As of 20:00, 17 March 2020, 180,159 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in 87 countries and territories, including 7,103 deaths. The deaths have been reported from China (3,226), Italy (2, 158), Iran (853), Spain (309), France (148), United States (85), South Korea (81), United Kingdom (55), Japan (28), Netherlands (24), Switzerland (14), Germany (13), Philippines (12), Iraq (9), San Marino (9), International conveyance in Japan (7), Sweden (7), Australia (5), Belgium (5), Indonesia (5), Algeria (4), Canada (4), Greece (4), Poland (4), Austria (3), India (3), Lebanon (3), Norway (3), Argentina (2), Bulgaria (2), Ecuador (2), Egypt (2), Ireland (2), Albania (1), Bahrain (1), Denmark (1), Guatemala (1), Guyana (1), Hungary (1), Luxembourg (1), Morocco (1), Panama (1), Sudan (1), Taiwan (1) and Thailand (1).
Infection rates vary in countries between 1% and 6% depending on multiple factors including the age of the population.
The UAE government has so far been successful in containing the virus to just 113 cases as of 18 March 2020.
As of 17 March 2020, there are only two confirmed cases of Coronavirus Covid-19 in UAE schools. A total of 98 cases have been officially confirmed to the World Health Organisation in the United Arab Emirates.
The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reports that:
“There have been very few reports of the clinical outcomes for children with COVID-19 to date. Limited reports from China suggest that children with confirmed COVID-19 may present with mild symptoms and though severe complications (acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon. However, as with other respiratory illnesses, certain populations of children may be at increased risk of severe infection, such as children with underlying health conditions.
Limited reports of children with COVID-19 in China have described cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting and diarrhoea) have been reported in at least one child with COVID-19.”
Positively, the World Heath Organisation states:
“We are [only] eight weeks into this Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak: yet we have identified the virus, we have the genetic sequence, PCR & serological assay in use. This wealth of knowledge is unprecedented for a new disease.”
Currently there is no cure.
- More on the UAE Government decision to close every school in the UAE to protect children can be found here.
- More on the UAE government decision to close all nursery schools can be found here.
- More on the UAE Government decision to ban school events can be found here.
- More on the first confirmed case of Coronavirus Covid 19 in a UAE school at the Indian High School, Senior Campus can be found here.
The single major action parents and students can take to protect themselves is to wash their hands. Medical specialist face masks are not advised for adults and are illegal for use by children because they restrict airflow and could result in respiratory failure if used over a long period. Paracetamol should be used in the case of suspected infection. Ibuprofen should not be used.
Current advice is for families not to travel by air unless it is absolutely unavoidable or an emergency.
A dedicated hotline has been set up to advise worried schools and parents on 06-7017000 and email at Sd@moe.gov.ae for issues that arise during the closure of schools and universities and the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak.
Over 620 school buildings have been completely sterilised to date, in addition to 6,000 school buses.
More than 168,000 students have been enrolled in a pilot Distance Learning programme in Abu Dhabi
To report suspected cases of Coronavirus Covid-19, parents are asked to call:
- The Dubai Health Authority: 800 342
- The Ministry of Health and Prevention: 800 11111.
- The Department of Health Estijaba service: 800 1717
For parents in Abu Dhabi facing a crisis in looking after their children during the closure of nursery schools an emergency hotline is available on: +971 58 5886570 or the toll-free number 80051115.
For parents in Dubai, the KHDA is providing comprehensive support for parents here.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has requested those holding valid UAE visas, and now locked out of the UAE, must do the following:
“Those who are now staying in their countries of origin have to contact the UAE diplomatic missions in their respective nations for all necessary support and to streamline their return back to the UAE.”
“Those who are currently outside the UAE for business considerations have to contact their employers here as well as Emirati diplomatic missions in their host countries for all necessary support to facilitate their return back to the UAE.”
“Those who are now on vacation have to contact UAE diplomatic missions in their respective host countries for all necessary support to facilitate their return back to the UAE.”
“The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) has urged the families and kins of those affected by the decision to get in touch with the ICA via the following contact numbers to get updated on all the measures they have to pursue: Fax: 025543883, Mobile: 0501066099, Landline 02 3128867- 02 3128865, Email: Operation@ica.gov.ae”
More on the real story of Coronavirus Covid 19 direct from Schools can be found on SchoolsCompared.com.
This is a rapidly developing story. Decisions are subject to change. We will publish more information for parents live as we receive it.
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