A Polymerase Chain Reaction test detects the presence of genetic material from a specific organism, such as the Covid-19 virus. PCR tests are both accurate and reliable and are therefore considered the gold standard for detecting positive cases of Covid-19.
The answer to this question depends on the emirate in which you reside. In Abu Dhabi, education governing body ADEK, recently announced that PCR tests for students, educators and school staff will be administered on site at the emirate’s schools. Abu Dhabi regulations require weekly PCR tests for unvaccinated students over the age of 12, as well as monthly tests for under 12s and those over the age of 12 who have been vaccinated for Covid-19.
In Dubai, PCR testing requirements are linked to international travel or, of course, if the child develops symptoms of Covid-19. In the case of international travel, a test is needed if the child has returned within 10 days of school re-entry date. This applies only to children aged 12 and over.
Parents of children in the other UAE emirates are advised to contact their school for guidance as to PCR testing requirements for school re-entry.
First of all, exemptions to the above rules and regulations are possible, though rare. Applications for exemptions must be made via the UAE Department of Health. All Children of Determination are exempt from PCR testing requirements.
We spoke with Dr. Umool Berkath Gangoli of Symbiosis Medical Centre in Dubai Silicon Oasis about PCR tests for children and how the UAE’s approach differs to other parts of the world.
“There is no alternative to a PCR test if we need to confirm Covid-19 for a symptomatic person, whatever the age. For adults, PCR tests can be either swabs or blood tests, and for children under the age of 10 we can test with either a nasal swab or a saliva [throat swab] test. PCR test results are valid for international travel, as well school re-entry, unless the child then presents with symptoms of Covid19.
“In the UK students take home tests twice a week. These are called lateral flow tests. School children do this themselves at home and upload their results on the National Health Service app. Unfortunately, lateral flow tests are not yet available in UAE”.
Dr Gangoli had the following advice for parents of children who were nervous of PCR testing,
“First all, it is the parents own stress and anxiety that needs to be taken care of! If that is ok, then we usually find that the rest will go smoothly. I suggest that parents should prepare their child in advance by sharing child-friendly information. At Symbiosis we advise parents to;
For parents of children (under 10) who prefer to have a Saliva [throat swab] PCR test, rather than a swab, these can be found in both private and public sector clinics.
Last month, the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) announced that the price of PCR tests has been fixed at 50 AED across the country.