The number of Covid-19 cases in schools is "very few" and there is no cause for any fear or anxiety, and parents can rest assured that their children are in safe hands.

This was stressed by senior officials on Monday while speaking on the issue of the new academic year and the return to schools amid the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.

Mohamed al-Bishri, adviser to HE the Minister of Education and Higher Education, told Qatar Radio on Monday that there is constant communication and follow-up by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) with both students and their parents in this regard.

Besides, there is an approved protocol in place along with continuous co-ordination between the MoEHE and Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).

More then 340,000 students are registered in public and private schools along with over 30,000 teaching staff members this academic year, he said. The number of Covid-19 cases are "very few" and "rare" among them and there is no reason for any fear or worry, he stressed.

The reported cases are being dealt with professionally through an approved protocol and constant and close co-ordination between the MoPH, MoEHE and the school authorities, al-Bishri said.

Some in-person classes were suspended in certain schools due to Covid-19 infections but remote learning continued there, he noted.

Attendance in most schools was more than 80% of the stipulated 30% capacity at this stage, the official added.

Al-Bishri advised parents and students to obtain information only from official sources in the MoPH and MoEHE, and avoid rumours and reports from inauthentic sources.

Dr Layla al-Dahnaim, Community Medicine consultant and director of the School Health Department at the Primary Health Care Corporation, also stressed that parents should avoid worrying and rest assured that their children are in safe hands. They are given the maximum possible care and protection, she added.

Speaking to Qatar TV on Monday, she said it is easy to track and follow the chains of infection and those who have been in contact with suspected cases because there are no morning gatherings of students and no activities outside the classroom.

"The back-to-school preparations this year were different because of the Covid-19 pandemic and we, at the School Health Department, have taken all necessary measures to ensure a safe return to school for all students, employees and teachers," she noted.

Dr al-Dahnaim explained that the MoPH has prepared special school health protocols, which includes the precautionary measures to follow in order to avoid any possible infections among all those present inside a school, such as teachers, other staff members, students and the school management. It has put in place approved health systems to detect and discover any possible infected cases among everyone concerned and on how to deal with them effectively and instantly, starting from the isolation of suspected cases in dedicated and specially equipped rooms in each school until they are referred to the specified health centre.

“When we were preparing these protocols, we took into consideration the fact that these should be practical measures that are easily applicable in all schools in Qatar, private or government. There is close co-ordination and co-operation between the School Health Department, the Health and Safety Department at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, and the management of all schools to ensure that the approved health protocols are strictly followed.”

She said training workshops have been conducted for nurses in all schools along with health and communication officers in these institutes to make sure that they are familiar with the protocols and can safely and effectively carry them out on a daily basis.

The protocols are designed to ensure the health and safety of students and all the workers and employees of schools, from the time they enter the campus until the end of the school day. For example, students or employees with a body temperature over 37.5C are taken to the dedicated isolation rooms for checking. In the case of a student, his/her parents are contacted before referral to a health centre. For an employee, referral will be done directly while all the necessary protocols are followed by the well-trained nurses and health officers at the school.

“We have seen that there is a good degree of awareness among both parents and students about Covid-19, how it spreads and the ways of protection,” she added.

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