Travelers wearing face masks to protect from them the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) while travelling through Abu Dhabi International Airport in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 16, 2020.
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On Wednesday, the UAE’s Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Twitter that all schools and universities will be closed for four weeks starting from Sunday, March 8. The work week in the Middle East starts on Sundays.
School facilities will be deep cleaned during the four-week period, the ministry wrote.
According to The National newspaper, the MOE said the two-week spring break, which was supposed to start on March 29, will be moved forward to start on Sunday. Students enrolled in public schools will then learn from home for the next two weeks.
“Private schools are encouraged to share their distance learning plans with parents & students,” the ministry said.
“This decision was made in the best interests of the health & safety of students and the wider education community at schools & universities,” it added.
The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments in the UAE also wrote on Twitter in Arabic that mosques will be sanitized.
This comes as confirmed infections in the country increase, though total figures are still lower than its neighbors. Iran has been hit the hardest in the region, with more than 2,000 cases and 77 deaths.
The UAE announced six new cases on Tuesday evening local time, bringing the tally to 27. There have been no fatalities in the country.
Countries in Asia have also closed schools amid the outbreak. In China, where the new coronavirus was first detected last December, many local governments delayed the re-opening of schools after the Lunar New Year holidays.
Japan reportedly began shutting most schools this week following a request from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe late last month. They are set to stay closed until early April.
Postponements and cancellations
Events have also been canceled in the Middle East and postponed in the wake of the virus.
Two stages of the UAE Tour, a road cycling race, were scrapped after cases were confirmed among participants. Electronic music festival Ultra, which was set to take place in Abu Dhabi from March 5-6, has reportedly been canceled.
Artificial intelligence and technology-focused event, AI Everything, has also been postponed. The two-day conference and exhibition was meant to begin on March 10, and organizers expected to attract 10,000 attendees.
Other countries in the region are also taking steps to stem the spread of the virus, which has infected 93,000 people globally.