BY PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today, 20 Sep 2009
The commencement of the new academic year in the public sector will not be postponed in the UAE, confirmed the Federal Ministry of Health (MoH).
"Even though there's no intention to put off the start of the academic year, the Ministry of Education (MoE) will have the complete authority to suspend classes partially for some time in a specific school or a group of schools, or even in a particular class," according to a senior MoH official.
Dr Ali Bin Ahmad Al Shakar, Director General of the MoH and Chairman of the Committee for Combating H1N1, said, "Education zones and school administrations would be given powers to postpone classes partially as per the nature of the infected cases in the particular school. The closure decision will come into effect in coordination with the health ministry."
"Central action will put in place after obtaining consent of the apex authority, in the events of swine flu outbreaks in more than one school," Dr Shakar stated after a meeting of the National Supervisory Committee for Combating Swine Flu. The meeting was held to pass an updated executive plan to combat the spread of the virus in the UAE schools.
According to him, the MoH has agreed with the education ministry to set up a working mechanism, as a secondary option to partially delay the commencement of the academic year in the government sector.
The H1N1 panel passed the updated executive plan as well as a media plan that will further strengthen the country's battle against the influenza. The meeting reviewed the vaccination general plan, for when the vaccine is available by the end of October, according to a WAM statement.
The Federal Health Minister Dr Hanif Hassan chaired the H1N1 panel meeting, in which the committee approved both the plans after taking stock of the general situation in schools.
"The committee also provided a plan for effectively handling the situation of spreading the flu in nurseries, kindergartens and centres for the handicapped children," said the chief executive of the ministry.
"The overall situation after two weeks of starting classes in some schools was very stable, despite the detection of individual infections among students. Roles of stakeholders from the health and education ministries as well as other competent authorities handing the H1N1 virus files were determined during the meeting," he added.
"The MoH had handed out eight types of posters and flyers containing educational and preventive tips on the H1N1 influenza to the MoE that will distribute them to schools," he pointed out.
According to him, students' guardians will be given lessons on the methods of dealing with the disease if it hits one of their kids. The H1N1 preventive strategies were drawn up by the MoH, in association with the Ministry of Social Affairs.