Tests for COVID-19 in UAE schoolchildren: frequency and ways to improve the process

A PCR test is widely acknowledged as the most effective way to screen for COVID-19 in Abu Dhabi.

Although the UAE has been screening its adult residents regularly since the pandemic began, the number of children undergoing screening has increased. There is an increase in PCR testing among children due to national regulations that are requiring schools to regularly test children based on their age and vaccination status. National Crisis, Emergency and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) announced the testing as part of a comprehensive plan to ensure a safe return to school.

Now all schools in Abu Dhabi provide on-campus testing for free. A free PCR test is available to vaccinate school-going children in other emirates as well. Oftentimes, students will be required to take PCR tests in the absence of their parents.

  1. All students must present a negative PCR test result received within the last 96 hours before the start of a school year or term.
  2. From then on, students up to the age of 12 are required to have a PCR test every month. A saliva-based test or a nasal PCR can be performed.
  3. Throughout the first month of school, students 12 years and older need to get PCR tests every two weeks.
  4. When you’ve received two vaccine doses and have completed 14 days since your second dose, you can undergo a monthly nasal PCR test.
  5. A nasal PCR test must be taken every week even if the subject has not yet been vaccinated, or if the subject has a medical exemption.

Children of all ages are eligible for the nasal swab test, but younger children may find it somewhat intrusive. It would be helpful if some basic measures were taken.

  1. If your children have never provided a nasal swab before, explain the significance of the test.
  2. Point out the positive aspects, including how regular testing keeps schools safe so that students can continue to attend classes and meet their friends in person.
  3. Provide them with advice on how to position themselves comfortably during the test. Generally, people prefer to tilt their heads slightly.
  4. You might want to tell them to close their eyes and take deep belly breaths during the test. Swabs can be dispel fear when this is done.
  5. Whenever your child succeeds on a test, give him or her praise; if your child is struggling, talk to the teacher.
  6. To familiarize them with the procedure, try to perform some of the first nasal swab tests yourself.
  7. The swabs are already used to many children in the UAE, but this can be helpful in case your child still has anxiety, or has never undergone a nasal swab before.

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