UAE : Swine Flu Dilemma For Schools as Students Return


Swine flu dilemma for schools

ABU DHABI: AUG  27: As thousands of students return to class after the summer holidays, at least three schools have delayed reopening because of uncertainty about how to deal with swine flu.

Schools report that they have received no instructions from the federal Government on how to handle an outbreak.

They will get some help today, when a guidance plan is issued by the Ministry of Health (MoH) – and it is likely to recommend that schools stay open.

The plan, which was finalised on Monday, will give schools suggestions on how to identify and contain possible swine flu outbreaks. Some experts have warned that the return to school will cause a spike in the number of cases caused by the H1N1 virus, but a source at the health ministry said the idea of delaying the reopening until November was not an option.

“This is not on the agenda. We will discuss with schools today the possible risks and measures to take but we are focusing on education and training, not a delay in opening,” the source said.

Schools in the UK and US are not delaying the start of the new term despite concerns about swine flu.

Speaking about the ministry’s plan last week, Dr Ali bin Shakar, the under-secretary of the health ministry and chairman of the national H1N1 committee, said the MoH approach would have three prongs: healthcare education for students, teacher and parents; training teachers and other school staff on how to respond to suspect cases; and training parents how to help their children if they become infected.

Reports that the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi had advised pupils returning from holiday on the eve of the new school term to stay at home for one week were dismissed by the authority on Tuesday.

It said it had not issued any such directives and was awaiting further information from the health ministry as H1N1 was a federal issue. The MoH source said there would be training sessions on the plan today in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah for private school staff.

But in the absence of a federal policy for schools, individual principals have forged ahead with their own plans, which range from delaying the start of the term to carrying on as usual.

The Pisco private school in Abu Dhabi has delayed the start of term as has the Al Mawakeb School, which has two branches in Dubai.

Global Education Management Systems (Gems), which operates the largest network of private schools in the country with 26 institutions, came up with its own contingency plan to deal with any outbreaks. It has formed a committee made up of senior staff members to create a crisis management strategy to deal with any cases or suspected cases.

“All principals and medical staff at Gems Schools have received training from a senior physician at City Hospital,” said Richard Forbes, the director of communications and marketing at Gems.

“We are still awaiting guidance from both the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health on this issue.”

At the American Community School in Abu Dhabi, term started on schedule on August 17. The school’s strategy includes sending literature to parents about H1N1, having teachers on alert for ill pupils and devising a plan to deal with sick children.

Meanwhile, universities are on the alert for students returning from the summer break who display symptoms of swine flu. Some have bought surgical face masks to offer to staff members and students, while also setting up workshops to educate them of the dangers of the virus.

Four charged with Dubai family murders

DUBAI - AUG 27: Police in India investigating the murders of a Dubai family said yesterday they had solved the case after four people were charged with the killings.

A couple related to the family and two young men had confessed to the crimes, officers said. All were in police custody last night.

Kadali Prasad, his wife Vijayalakshmi, son Ketan, 14, and daughter Kavita, 10, were found strangled at a budget lodge in Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, last Friday, sparking a statewide search for the killers. Mr Prasad, an engineer for Dubai Petroleum, had lived in the UAE for more than 20 years.

Police said yesterday that the murders were over a financial dispute between the accused couple, Abraham John and Madhavi, and Mr Prasad’s family. The couple were distant relatives of Mr Prasad.

The dispute is being investigated by police but family sources said it concerned an insurance claim that had matured.

The couple are accused of planning the murders and hiring Kranti Kiran Rathod and Kare Pradeep Kumar, both under 25, to help carry them out in return for cash.

K Ramachandran, assistant commissioner of Hyderabad Police, said the arrests were officially recorded at noon yesterday.

He said the couple booked two rooms at the RAK Royal Lodge and invited the Prasad family there to solve the dispute, though they intended to kill them.

The men were with Mr Prasad in one room while Madhavi was with Mrs Prasad and the children in the other.

“They pushed Mr Prasad against the wall causing a head injury, then they strangled him,” said Mr Ramachandran. The wife and the children were strangled after that, he said. The four then allegedly fled.

Records of phone calls made by Mr Prasad and other evidence found at the lodge led to the arrests. Police ruled out the involvement of a land mafia – a criminal network of officials, politicians and business people – in the murders, which had been claimed by relatives of the Prasads.

The relatives said yesterday that police had used film from closed- circuit television from different locations to help them keep track of the suspects.

The Prasad family lived in Al Bustan Tower in Al Nahda on the Dubai-Sharjah road. Neighbours spoke yesterday of their shock at the murders.

“They were such simple people, we never expected this,” said the owner of a grocery shop in the building. “They never mingled with anyone and did not have any friends.”

A security guard in the building said Mr Prasad’s car was still parked there and the family’s home remained locked. No friends or relatives had been to clear their belongings.

Mr Prasad was in his late 40s and his wife in her late 30s.

The family was cremated on Sunday evening and several religious rituals were performed by relatives on Monday.

The family had been on holiday in India since the end of July and were expected to return to Dubai on August 14. However, they extended their stay after Mr Prasad’s nephew committed suicide.

They moved into the lodge last Thursday. Hotel staff called police on Friday after they noticed a bad smell coming from the family’s room, which was locked from the outside.

The body of Mr Prasad was found in a corridor. His wife and children were found on a bed.

Among the items at the scene were the family’s tickets for their return journey to Dubai, which had been booked for that day.


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