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The decision follows a review of detailed statistics related to COVID-19 cases in children’s nurseries in Abu Dhabi, which showed a consistently low infection rate. The decision also follows consultation with nursery operators and parents, taking into consideration their needs and circumstances.
Updated procedures for operating nurseries in the emirate include the continuation of operating with a lower capacity and caring for children in small groups or "bubbles." However, bubbles now can include more children. For the age group of 45 days to 2 years, a bubble can include 12 children, up from 8, while for the age group of 2 years to 4 years, a bubble can include 16 children, up from 10.
Nurseries must continue to ensure a minimum space requirement of 3.5 square metres per child in each classroom, and 5 square metres in open areas.
The procedures also include gradual closure of a nursery, if needed, rather than immediately closing the full nursery. As per the update, the bubble in which a positive case is detected will be closed for 10 days. If three or more bubbles are affected, then the entire nursery will close for 10 days, based on specific measures.
Mariam Al Hallami, Division Director of the Early Childhood Education at the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, said, "Nurseries play a crucial role in shaping children’s futures, by building their skills and evolving their social and intellectual abilities at the most important stage of character development. Nurseries are also critical in supporting parents’ careers and ability to work by providing this essential service.
"During the pandemic, parents, their employers, and nursery operators worked closely together to minimise the impact of reducing nurseries’ capacity while also ensuring children receive the important care they need."
She added, "We truly appreciate the continuous support that the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee has given to the nursery sector and all parents who require childcare support, especially that nurseries have proven their ability to provide a safe environment for children, and have vaccinated more than 77 percent of all staff."
The operating procedures will also continue to include: conducting regular inspections to ensure health procedures are implemented; providing all staff with mandatory virtual training on implementing COVID-19 protocols; appointing a health and safety officer, and hiring a nurse in every nursery, who will check the temperature of children, educators and staff daily, and not admit any person with a potential coronavirus symptom.
Kamil Najjar, Founder and CEO of Kids First Group, stated, "We welcome the updated requirements for operating nurseries, which will ensure a safe and healthy educational environment for all children while supporting the recovery of the nursery sector and helping parents who need childcare after the return of businesses to the workplace."
The committee reiterated that it will continue to review and assess the compliance of nurseries with precautionary measures to ensure maintaining the health and safety of children and staff. It also called on the community to continue to follow the necessary proactive and precautionary measures to protect their health and the wider public.
Reviewing the requirements for operating nurseries, as well as supporting the nursery sector and parents, is part of Abu Dhabi's long-term strategy for recovery, which places the health and safety of the community at the forefront of all decisions.
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