The Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee has announced updated requirements for operating children’s nurseries across the emirate, with effect from July 1, 2021.
The decision was taken after the committee reviewed the detailed statistics of COVID-19 cases in children’s nurseries in Abu Dhabi, which indicated a significant decrease in infection rate in recent months. The committee also held necessary consultations with nursery operators and parents in order to include their considerations in the decision-making process.
As per the updated procedures, the nurseries will continue to operate at a low capacity while taking care of children in small groups or "bubbles". However, the new guidelines have allowed increasing the number of children in bubbles. The number of children has been increased from 8 to 12 for the age group of 45 days to 2 years, while th number of children has been expanded from 10 to 16 for the age group of 2 years to 4 years.
Nurseries have been asked to ensure a minimum space requirement of 3.5 square metres per child in each classroom along with 5 square metres in open areas to ensure physical distancing. The requirements also provide guidelines for gradual closure of a nursery, if needed, instead of immediate closure of the entire nursery.
In case a positive case is detected in a bubble, the group must be prevented from attending the nursery for 10 days. If three or more bubbles are affected by infection, the entire nursery must be closed for 10 days in line with precautionary measures.
Speaking about the development, Mariam Al Hallami, Division Director of the Early Childhood Education at the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, underlined the crucial role of nurseries in shaping the future of children by building their skills and enhancing their social and intellectual abilities at the crucial age of character development.
"Nurseries are also critical in supporting parents’ careers and ability to work by providing this essential service," Al Hallami added.
She noted that during the pandemic, nursery operators, parents, and other stakeholders worked closely to minimise the impact of the virus on children and reducing nurseries’ capacity to ensure that every child received the necessary care they needed. She further hailed the continuous support provided by the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee to the nursery sector during the pandemic. She also expressed appreciation towards parents for their contributions to the sector.
"Nurseries have proven their ability to provide a safe environment for children, and have vaccinated more than 77 percent of all staff," she added.
Besides the new protocols, these existing guidelines will continue as usual:
· Conducting regular inspections to ensure the implementation of health procedures
· Providing mandatory virtual training on COVID-19 protocols to nursery staff
· Appointing a health and safety officer and hiring a nurse in every nursery to check the health requirements of children, educators and staff on a daily basis
· Not to admit any person with a potential Coronavirus symptom
Kamil Najjar, Founder and CEO of Kids First Group, welcomed the updated requirements for operating nurseries that are aimed at providing a safe and healthy educational environment for all children. Najjar added that the new protocols will support the recovery of the nursery sector and help parents who require childcare after the resumption of operations at offices and workplaces.
Furthermore, the committee has reassured the continuity of reviewing and assessment of compliance of nurseries with COVID-19 precautionary measures. These efforts are aimed at maintaining maximum safety and wellbeing of children and staff. The committee has also called on all community members to continue adhering to necessary safety measures to protect public health.
Abu Dhabi's long-term strategy for recovery prioritises the review of requirements for operating nurseries and supporting the nursery sector and parents across the emirate. The committee has always placed the health and safety of the community at the forefront of its review and decision-making.