The National Crisis, Emergency and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) has increased PCR testing facilities for children as they return to schools for in-person classes in the new academic year. The testing measures have come in line with UAE's efforts to promote smooth and safe return of students to physical learning in schools. As per the regulations, children are required to get themselves tested regularly on the basis of their age and vaccination status.
All schools in Abu Dhabi are offering free testing services to students on the premises. Vaccinated students in other emirates are also required to get themselves tested for COVID-19 for free every month. Evidently, there will be times when students will have to undergo COVID-19 PCR tests in the absence of their parents.
Here is a quick guide to assist students as well as parents with the process of PCR screenings:
What is the PCR testing requirement for students?
As per safety rules, all students are required to present a negative PCR test result conducted within 96 hours of attending in-person classes in schools. The requirement applies to all students attending in-person classes in public, private and charter schools across the UAE along with students enrolled in universities, nurseries, daycare centres, training institutes, and universities.
Students aged below 12 years are mandated to get themselves tested for COVID-19 every month. It can be saliva-based or nasal PCR tests.
Students aged 12 years or more are required to get tested every two weeks for the first month of school. Later, fully vaccinated students with 14 days completed after the second vaccine dose can take a nasal PCR test every month. Furthermore, unvaccinated students and those with medical vaccination exemption are required to take a nasal PCR test every week.
In Dubai and Sharjah private schools, students aged less than 12 years are not needed to undergo PCR testing as of now.
There are various schools offering remote learning to children aged less than 12, students of determination, and other university students. Therefore, these students will not have to undergo regular PCR testing.
Preparation before nasal swab tests
While nasal swab tests are available for children of all ages, it can be mildly intrusive for younger students. In this regard, here are some measures for parents to help their children through the process:
· Talk to your children about the importance of the test, particularly if they have not undertaken a nasal swab in the past. Pointing out positive aspects such as the importance of regularly testing in keeping the school safe and facilitating in-person interaction with other children on campus.
· Advise them on positioning themselves comfortably while taking a test. Significantly, a majority of people find a slight head tilt to be more comfortable.
· Recommend them to close their eyes and taken deep breaths while taking the test. It will help in dispelling any fear related to the swab.
· Praise them for every successful test as well as communicate with the school in case your child is experiencing any difficulty in the process.
· If possible, parents are advised to take their children for initial nasal swab tests to ensure that they are familiar with the process. Significantly, a majority of students in the UAE have already taken swab tests as part of the national efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis.
Preparation before a saliva test
· For children aged less than 12 years, saliva tests are optional. Therefore, parents are suggested to ask their child's school about the scheduled PCR Testing
· Abu Dhabi-based Biogenix Labs was first facility in the emirates to offer saliva PCR tests for children. According to Dr Sally Mahmoud, lab director and clinical pathologist at Biogenix Labs, children must not eat or drink anything at least 45 minutes before the test.
· Ask your child to listen to the testing professional and pool saliva in the mouth.
· Inform your child about the need to spit multiple times so that two millilitres of saliva can be collected by the health authorities at the centre. They can practice spitting into a container at home.
All private and public testing centres across Abu Dhabi are offering free testing for school children, with an increase in the number of healthcare facilities and drive-through centres providing a saliva testing option.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention has also established medical centres in other emirates to facilitate PCR Testing for students. Dubai Health Authority-led facilities are also offering free PCR tests to Emirati students enrolled in public schools in the emirate.