More Covid 19 Restrictions lifted. Hugs, handshakes and high fives are back! No more social distancing in Abu Dhabi schools.
Children will be returning to a dramatically more normal version of school after the Spring Break, as Abu Dhabi’s school regulator announces a slew of relaxed COVID measures. The most significant change is the lifting of the social distancing regulations inside classrooms, meaning that pupils will now be free to hug, high-five and work or play closely with their friends just as they could before the pandemic hit more than two years ago.
Only weeks after the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) removed social distancing requirements in outdoor open areas for the Spring term, physical distancing requirements will now be lifted inside Abu Dhabi classrooms in time for the Summer term – something that will delight teachers and parents of younger children especially, who have found social distancing particularly challenging.
However, face masks are still required indoors for students in grades 1 to 12 – something that is becoming increasingly controversial for some parents, who argue that many adults have started to relax their own mask-wearing habits, while children are still spending their whole six to eight-hour school day under strictly enforced mask-wearing rules.
ADEK says mask-wearing remains important and the updated protocols follow widespread compliance with precautionary measures across the emirate’s school community, meaning that the education ecosystem is now able to safely return to something much closer resembling normality.
ADEK’s newly relaxed COVID regulations for Summer Term 2022
In-classroom learning for all – minus social distancing – for new term
All students in Abu Dhabi schools must return to in-classroom learning for the new term, although students can be exempted if they present an attested ‘high risk’ medical report that confirms their inability to attend school in-person. Schools will also be given the option to lift social distancing requirements in classrooms, but students in grades 1-12 are still required to wear face masks. ADEK says this new step will enable schools to return to full capacity and empower all Abu Dhabi students to resume in-classroom education.
The full return to in-classroom education excludes students exempted on medical grounds, students showing COVID-19 symptoms, or when the school shifts to distance learning due to closure requirements.
Unvaccinated Students Return to School with Routine PCR Test
In Abu Dhabi unvaccinated students aged 16 and above can now return to school upon providing a negative PCR test result every seven days.
However, all students must present a 96-hours negative COVID-19 test result on the first day of their return to school. Free tests are available at SEHA Drive Through Centers and private medical centers, and parents have been advised to contact the centers to confirm the availability of a free test for students. Students aged below 12 may opt for a free Saliva test at dedicated centers detailed on ADEK website.
Following their return, routine PCR test requirements mandate all vaccinated students aged 16+, teachers and staff to undergo PCR tests every 14 days, and show their green status on Al Hosn App to enter schools; same testing routine and requirements apply for the same categories with medical exemption validated on Al Hosn App. PCR test validity remain 30 days for students under the age of 16. Al Hosn Green Pass requirements will apply to all school visitors, while unvaccinated visitors will be required to present a negative PCR test result recorded within the last 48 hours.
Updated Testing Schedule for Close Contact Cases
Following the latest announcement made by relevant government entities, 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 or when they start showing symptoms. Earlier in March quarantine requirements were removed for the same categories.
Reduced School Closure Requirements
The updated protocols also remove classroom and bubble closure requirements, with a three-day school-level closure only taking place if 15% of its student body test positive at the same time. Following the completion of closure period, close contact students must adhere to the testing schedule, while students who tested positive continue their distance learning till the completion of their isolation procedures.
Inspection visits continue
ADEK confirmed its inspection and compliance teams will continue regular visits to private and Charter Schools across the emirate to ensure the health and safety of all students. In coordination with all relevant authorities, ADEK also confirmed its commitment to continue monitoring all schools’ adherence to health and safety precautions.
Another step towards full normality
The new updated protocols complement the latest relaxation of precautionary measures that came into effect earlier in March 2022. Those measures allowed for mask removal in outdoor areas, and removal of quarantine for contacts of positive cases. The updated protocols also allowed the return of all sport activities for students aged 16 and above on school premises. School trips were permitted for students in all age groups, while adhering to precautionary measures in place at the venue of the school trip.
Is social distancing now cancelled in Dubai schools?
The announcement so far is from ADEK, which only regulates Abu Dhabi schools. So far the guidance from the Dubai regulator the KHDA for Dubai schools remains the same as was announced in early March, which means that at present physical distancing will still be required in Dubai classrooms on the return from Spring Break.
Abu Dhabi COVID rule updates at a glance
- Mass return to in-school learning for all grades
- Removal of mandatory social distancing in classrooms
- Unvaccinated students aged 16+ to test every seven days
- Close contacts to test on days 1 and 7
- 14 days PCR test validity for vaccinated students above 16 years old, teachers and staff, and 30 days for students below 16 years old
- Sweeping changes reduce school closures to three days when 15% of total student body test positive
- Students must present a 96-hours negative COVID-19 test result on the first day of their return to school
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