Pupils and teachers at schools across the United Arab Emirates will no longer have to wear face masks as part of an overhaul of the country’s COVID-19 safety protocols.
The UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced on Monday as part of a televised briefing that residents will no longer be required to wear face coverings in educational establishments as well as in malls, supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants.
According to the new rules, masks will only be required in places of worship, in hospitals and on public transport from Wednesday, September 28.
The use of masks in indoor public places has been in effect for two and a half years since the outbreak of the global pandemic which has seen more than 615 million cases of COVID-19 cases worldwide and more than 6.54 million deaths.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the UAE has recorded more than a million cases and 2,343 deaths. However, country-wide cases in the UAE have been steadily dropping and have reached a daily level of between 300 and 400 new cases.
Abu Dhabi’s Department of Education and Knowledge confirmed it would follow the new guidelines.
“Face masks are no longer mandatory for private schools, early childhood centers, universities and training institutes in Dubai. Smiles remain compulsory,” tweeted the emirate’s private education regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).
Ruth Burke, CEO and Principal of Swiss International School Dubai, was among those to welcome the new guidelines.
“We are fully aligned with the UAE government’s plans to ease mask wearing in indoor settings, and support the idea of optional mask wearing in school,” she said. “While we hope this means we are now entering the post-COVID-19 era, we recommend our students and parents decide whether or not they wish to continue wearing masks themselves.”
“We will also be taking a sensitive approach to mask removal – and considering how this might impact our students’ mental health. As always, the health and welfare of our school community is paramount. But it will be wonderful to see our staff and students’ smiles again, and embrace more natural, open communication where possible.”
NCEMA also announced on Monday that the COVID-19 home isolation period will be now reduced from 10 days to five day, while only the person who tests positive for COVID-19 will be required to quarantine, not someone who has been in close contact with them.
Abu Dhabi residents will be required to have tests once every 30 days to keep Al Hosn app green. It was every 14 days previously.
Furthermore, NCEMA announced that the number of daily COVID-19 cases will no longer be published by the government.
The UAE health authorities took firm measures to combat the outbreak, including a number of measures to tackle a wave of omicron variant cases that pushed daily COVID-19 numbers up earlier this year.
As a result, in June, NCEMA reemphasized that it would strictly enforce mask rules – with penalties for those flouting the protocol – and announced it would tighten its rules on the Al Hosn green pass system.
The average rate of daily COVID-19 infections recorded by the Gulf country has declined since these measures were re-emphasized.
The same month, the UAE said it achieved the goal of its national COVID-19 vaccination campaign, announcing that 100 percent of the targeted categories had been vaccinated.
The country continues to offer free vaccinations to all residents.