Schools in the United Arab Emirates will close for one month in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, according to an announcement made late last night.
The country's education ministry said that the break would allow schools to be "deep cleaned" and that distance learning would take place during the latter two weeks.
Both state schools and the more than 600 private international schools in the UAE will have to close from Sunday.
The head of an international school in Dubai described last night's statement from the UAE's Ministry of Education as "management at midnight".
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It was made at around 10.30pm, through the UAE's official news agency, WAM, and said that schools would start their spring holiday early from Sunday 8 March, instead of the planned date of 29 March.
After the two weeks' holiday schools would remain closed for two weeks from 22 March to 5 April while pupils are taught through e-learning platforms.
"Under this decision, the spring break for school students, which was scheduled to start on 29 March until 12 April, will begin next Sunday," the statement read.
"A distance learning initiative will be launched in the last two weeks of the vacation, thus ensuring the continuity of the educational process at home, without hampering in the number of school days."
The ministry stressed that this time should be used for schools to sanitise their premises.
All schools & universities in the UAE will be closed for 4 weeks starting Sunday March 8. Facilities will be deep cleaned during this time. pic.twitter.com/Y6kkD74sZe— وزارة التربية (@MOEducationUAE) March 3, 2020
After the holiday, pupils at state schools will follow the government's online 'Learn from Afar' curriculum, while the education ministry has encouraged private schools to follow suit during the two-week closure.
Mike Lambert, principal of Dubai College, a private international school, told Tes: "It’s a bit of management at midnight in the UAE – so there was a message that went out at 10.27 last night.
"The Ministry of Education declared at that point that schools are now going to be shut for two weeks, and then they’re going to go to two weeks of online learning, and then revert to in-person learning."
Asked whether it was possible that schools could remain closed after 5 April, he said: "The only thing we can predict at the moment is that things are predictably unpredictable."