Everyone’s support vital to make school reopenings a success


BC Back to school mental health
The new school year ahead can only become successful and fulfilling if all parents and students lend their full cooperation to the efforts to ensure everyone’s safety
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A decision by the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) to resume in-class learning from August 30 for schoolchildren across the emirate is a welcome step towards bringing thousands of students back to the familiar surroundings of their classrooms and friends after a full-term hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet, some aspects of the proposed back-to-school routine for school students will not be so familiar after all.

As outlined by Adek and earlier this month by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the green light for schools to resume in-class learning comes with several caveats and policies to ensure the safest possible return to a physical classroom for all students and academic staff.

While many countries are not in a position to consider reopening schools due to surging caseloads of daily infections, in the UAE there is clearly a scope to re-open due to the country’s proactive management of the pandemic

– Gulf News

Schools need to evaluate and implement these requirements based on four key pillars: safe operations, teaching and learning, staff and student well-being and community support.

Stringent protocols

From the school bus to the classroom, there must be stringent protocols in place to ensure social distancing, and protective equipment such as PPEs, screens and partitions must be used for every interaction.

There must be a careful vigil on students in primary schools — who are unlikely to adhere to social distancing norms voluntarily.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to the closure of 60% of schools across 186 countries and forced at least 1.5 billion students to stay home. The UAE is thus not alone in striving to frame safe policies to reopen schools — countries around the world are wrestling over the same issue.

Despite the success of e-learning, there are several key skills and lessons that shape a student’s personality and academic rigour and simply cannot be imparted online — from developing inter-personal skills to sessions at the science labs.

While many countries are not in a position to consider reopening schools due to surging caseloads of daily infections, in the UAE there is clearly a scope to re-open due to the country’s proactive management of the pandemic.

Therefore, the debate over e-learning must now shift to how school spaces can be made safer and hygienic to prevent any infection.

The pandemic has been a learning lesson for all of us — and that includes the academic fraternity.

As the UAE prepares to welcome back students to classrooms, the new school year ahead can only become successful and fulfilling if all parents and students lend their full cooperation to the efforts to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being, and diligently follow all guidelines and hygiene protocols.



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A vote of confidence for Dubai as the world’s medical tourism hub


Dubai
Dubai as a destination of choice for global health tourists continues to boost its journey towards one of the world’s top knowledge economies
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Even as most countries around the world continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, Dubai is getting ready to welcome back global medical tourists — in yet another reassuring affirmation of the strong and unique coordination between public and private health sectors that has helped Dubai effectively combat the spread of Covid-19.

Not only has the proactive management of the outbreak helped Dubai to quickly adapt to the new normal, it is now poised to attract 500,000 medical tourists this year and provide them an unparalleled experience, according to top officials from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

Right from airports and immigration counters to hospitals and wellness centres, Dubai has deployed a range of technologies to ensure the highest compliance to Covid-19 protocols and make the wide spectrum of medical and wellness treatments across all its public and private hospitals the safest possible experience

– Gulf News

The announcement follows the emirate’s decision to reopen its borders to international tourists from July 7, with clear health protocols in place. One of the reasons why Dubai and the UAE have been able to get back to business and embrace the new normal so rapidly is because of its unwavering focus on testing.

According to the DHA, with more than 4 million PCR tests conducted across the UAE (of which 950,000 were done in Dubai), involving 100 field campaigns and 9,000 health care professionals, the country was able to keep the fatality rate at less than 0.6 per cent and the recovery rate at more than 80 per cent.

High recovery rate

Thanks to the high recovery rate among Covid-19 cases, Dubai’s health care sector is in the global spotlight again — after attracting more than 350,000 health tourists to Dubai last year whose net spend nearly touched Dh800 million as part of the Dubai Health Experience (DXH).

This year, in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s even more reasons for global medical tourists to place their confidence in Dubai. The emirate has continued to attract fresh investments in the health care sector during the pandemic: out of 3,397 health facilities licensed in the emirate, 45 were set up during the first half of 2020.

Right from airports and immigration counters to hospitals and wellness centres, Dubai has also deployed a range of technologies to ensure the highest compliance to Covid-19 protocols and make the wide spectrum of medical and wellness treatments across all its public and private hospitals the safest possible experience.

This is backed up by a strong health regulation framework, international accreditations, collaborations with global brands such as Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University and investing in latest AI-driven technologies such as robotic surgery, artificial intelligence (AI)-supported treatment and 3D printing in all disciplines and sub-specialities.

Over the last decade, the health care industry has emerged as one of the most critical sectors for the UAE’s economic diversification, and Dubai as a destination of choice for global health tourists continues to boost its journey towards one of the world’s top knowledge economies.



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Stay safe and cautious this Eid


Eid Al Fitr

Image Credit: Gulf News

From the time when most countries were firmly in the grip of pandemic in April, Coronavirus has disrupted important events of the Muslim world’s religious and social calendar, keeping people indoors, preventing the faithful from performing their most sacred duties and dampening festivities.

Ramadan was without community iftars and mosques were shut, Eid Al Fitr festivities became a family-only event and Hajj has been restricted to a thousand worshippers.

The UAE’s National Authority for Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management on Wednesday announced similar restrictions for Eid Al Adha. Prayers are to be performed at home, animal sacrifices to be made through charities, gatherings and family visits are not allowed as part of precautionary protocols.

In the UAE, the new set of restrictions are coming at a time when the country appears to be on track to flatten the disease curve, positive cases are declining and recoveries are impressive. Still, the country’s health authorities are not ready to take chances, telling citizens and residents to celebrate Eid Al Adha responsibly

– Gulf News

These steps are in line with measures adopted by the UAE and other Islamic governments since the beginning of the holy month of fasting. For example, Oman has declared a complete lockdown from July 25 to August 8.

Precautionary measures during mass outbreak of diseases are not new to the Muslim world and religious documents quote Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as saying 1400 years ago: “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”

Adopt a cautious approach

He also advised his companions to value their lives and stay away from pandemic hit regions. Imposing public restrictions during religious festivals is tough but are absolutely essential for public safety.

Countries in the region have learnt from recent experiences of the nations where coronavirus returned with a vengeance after restrictions were eased or lifted.

In the UAE, the new set of restrictions are coming at a time when the country appears to be on track to flatten the disease curve, positive cases are declining and recoveries are impressive. Still, the country’s health authorities are not ready to take chances, telling citizens and residents to celebrate Eid Al Adha responsibly.

While these steps may impact the economy and limit social freedoms, the restrictions are a bitter pill that we all must have to swallow.

Eid Al Adha is the commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim’s act of obedience to Allah who commanded him to sacrifice his son, Ismail. When the prophet was about to sacrifice his son, Allah offered him a sheep. This ritual is followed by Muslims who sacrifice animals and distribute it to the poor and relatives.

Today, when a tiny microbe is threatening the mankind, this sacrifice has acquired a new meaning. Next week, the followers of Islam celebrating Eid Al Adha will be sacrificing personal liberties and rituals associated with the festival, valuing public safety over everything else.



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Story of a tiny beautiful thing


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In Mississippi, power was out for days. In Alabama, schools opened late because of torrential rains. In Tennessee, houses slid from their foundations and tumbled into the Tennessee River. In Kentucky, heavy rains triggered a rock slide that derailed a train carrying ethanol, and the spilt fuel set the Big Sandy River on fire. All across the South this year, flooding has been nothing less than Shakespearean, even biblical, the kind of weather that comes from a human challenge to the divine order.

I don’t actually believe the Almighty dispenses weather to punish bad behaviour, but if I did, I’d have a good idea whose behaviour might have triggered it.

Paying attention to what is happening in Washington is a form of self-torment so reality altering that it should be regulated as a Schedule IV drug. I pay attention because that’s what responsible people do, but I sometimes wonder how much longer I can continue to follow the national news and not descend into a kind of despair that might as well be called madness. Already there are days when I’m one click away from becoming Lear on the heath, raging into the storm. There are days when it feels like the apocalypse is already here.

Except it isn’t, not really. Not yet. One day when the relentless rains let up for a bit, I went to the park an hour before sunset to walk on the muddy trails and take a break from the bad news. The woods were as lovely as they ever are after a rain: the creeks full of rushing water, the grey bark of the fallen trees slick with moss.

Above the trail, the limbs of the living trees creaked in the rising wind, the kind of sound that makes your heart ache for reasons too far beyond words to explain. Though the forest understorey is already beginning to green up, weeks too soon, the towhees scratching for insects stirring in what’s left of last fall’s leaves were not in any way sorry about the arrival of spring.

As darkness began to gather in earnest, I turned to head back the way I’d come. A few hundred yards on, my eyes caught on a tree I hadn’t noticed when I was walking in the other direction. About seven feet up the trunk was a knothole, a place where a limb had long ago broken off and let water in to rot the wood. Perhaps a woodpecker had helped to deepen it, too, and given the water more purchase over time.

The hole was small, a dark grotto in the thickly grooved bark of the stalwart oak, a hiding place that reached far into the mass of that old tree, and the failing light deepened its darkness. Who knows how many miniature woodland creatures have crept into its crevice over the years to nest, to shelter from the wind and rain, to hide from predators — or to wait for prey.

Natural greenhouse

But a creature lurking inside it is not what singled this knothole out among the hundreds, even thousands, I had passed on the path as night came on. What caught my eye was a cluster of tiny seedlings coloured the bright new green of springtime, so bright it seemed to glow in the gloaming. The tender plants were growing in the loam inside the knothole. Far above the ground, a hole made by decay in a living tree had become a cold frame, a natural greenhouse that lets in light and keeps out frost. Life in death in life.

In times like these, it makes more sense to seek out daily causes for praise than daily reminders of lack. So here is my resolution: to find as many ordinary miracles, as many resurrections as the seasons will allow. Tiny beautiful things are bursting forth in the darkest places, in the smallest nooks and deepest cracks of the hidden world, and I am going to keep looking every single day until I find one.

— Margaret Renkl is a contributing opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.



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COVID-19: We cannot drop our guard



Five months ago Chinese authorities took extensive lockdown measures to try and contain coronavirus, putting public health officials and government officials on alert on the potential widespread dangers of this virus. And now, as the days of July draw to a close, the most concerted efforts of all working together have managed to limit the worst effects of this global pandemic. But if there is one thing we all have learnt, it is that coronavirus is a pernicious and persistent invisible enemy that still maintains the capability of resurging once more.

Here in the UAE, where a range of effective public health policy, stringent measures have blunted the worst effects of the coronavirus, we still need to maintain our vigilance to ensure it has no opportunity to again take root and threaten our health and safety.

Scientists and researchers — the best minds in the medical field — are concentrating their efforts and learning as much as possible about this virus, how it targets our bodies, where it is vulnerable. And progress is being made on developing an effective vaccine that will turn the tide once and for all in our favour. Public health measures work too, but there are lessons to be learnt.

In India, close to 50,000 cases daily are being registered regularly, and greater efforts are needed collectively to ensure that the virus will not overwhelm a health system that is creaking under the sheer strain of so many ill. In the US, where states went their own way in combating coronavirus, cases there are still rising, with 142,000 dead there in the world’s worst-affected nation. Across Central and South America, cases too are simply too many.

The effect of this pandemic has been to place large sections of the global economy in hibernation, and the challenge now is to put people back to work, safely, to ensure that this pandemic does not inflict too much damage on our economic, trading, commercial and financial systems.

But we are winning. The lesson is that we need too to be on guard against second surges. Already, in parts of Europe that have reopened and where air corridors have been put in place to assist travel and tourism, these measures need constant vigilance and monitoring — and are being rolled back at short notice where necessary as a result of local outbreaks. We are emerging from this — slowly, surely — and much better informed.



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