Dh20,000 fine for spreading fake health news

By Eudore R. Chand

ABU DHABI 19 April 2020: The UAE Cabinet yesterday approved a decision regulating the publication and dissemination of information on communicable diseases to safeguard the health and safety of the public, handing a fine of up to Dh20,000 for spreading false, misleading, or unverified health information, said Dr. Farida Al Hosani, official spokesperson for the UAE health sector.

Dr. Al Hosani made the remarks during the UAE Government’s regular briefing on the latest developments related to the spread of the coronavirus in the country, wherein she and Hessa Tahlak, UAE Volunteers campaign spokesperson, provided an update on measures taken to curb the spread of Covid-19.

According to the Cabinet decision, Dr. Al Hosani said, the Health Ministry and other national health bodies are the sole entities responsible for disseminating verified medical information and guidelines to the public, said Wam.

Dr. Al Hosani also said that genome sequencing has increasingly become an important tool for the study of disease outbreaks. “By studying the genetic sequence of the virus and minor changes over time among patients, scientists can gain a better understanding of how the virus spreads, which can also inform measures to control the outbreak,” she noted.

“The UAE boasts remarkable potential and notable human resources, enabling it to make the best possible use of genome sequencing. A number of studies are underway to achieve the best possible results,” she affirmed.

Al Hosani reiterated the importance of complying with the precautionary measures advised by the UAE Government, including regular handwashing, social distancing, and wearing facemasks, in addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet.

On potential treatments for Covid-19, Dr. Al Hosani said there are several medicines currently being studied, including remdesivir, which she said is now being used to treat critical coronavirus cases. “In the UAE, we are closely following up on all clinical laboratory test results in this regard, and a decision will be made accordingly,” she added.

Replying to a question on the susceptibility of pregnant women to contracting Covid-19, Dr. Al Hosani said: “They are not more vulnerable than others, according to scientific research and studies conducted in this regard. This is despite the fact that some believe they are more vulnerable, as women’s bodies undergo many transformations during nine months of pregnancy, and therefore they are more susceptible to complications of flu, for instance. We advise regular medical checkups with specialists once a pregnant woman becomes infected with the virus.”

For her part, Tahlak said that volunteering is a pillar of the UAE’s culture in which social cohesion and solidarity are deeply rooted.

Tahlak noted that over 3,000 volunteers with a medical background have registered with the campaign. Shortly after the launch of the campaign, more than 8,000 volunteers of 115 nationalities living in the UAE registered, according to Tahlak.

“Today, we stand together, UAE nationals and residents, to lead the national fight against the coronavirus. The UAE Government has announced a national initiative to unify and sustain volunteering efforts across the country under one campaign named ‘UAE Volunteers,'” Tahlak said.

She explained that the campaign prioritizes the recruitment of medical personnel, retired doctors, nurses, paramedics, and medical students.

“More than 3000 volunteers of medical background are registered in the campaign’s platform. Shortly after the launch of the campaign more than 8000 volunteers from 115 nationalities living in the UAE got registered.”

Cabinet Resolution

The resolution stipulates that the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP), and other relevant authorities will announce all health information, adopt health guidelines in the country and publish the health guidelines related to communicable diseases after obtaining approval of the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, NCEMA.

Under the resolution, it is prohibited to publish, republish or circulate false and misleading health-related information or guidelines about or any information that are not officially announced or approved by MoHAP or other health authorities, or the information that contradicts with what has been announced, through print, audio or visual media or through social media, websites, IT tools or other types of media.

The ministries and federal and local authorities are required to seek NCEMA’s approval before replying to or commenting on any health information related to epidemics and to nominate official spokespersons for that. The UAE Government Communication Office at the General Secretariat of the Cabinet shall select and approve the spokespersons.

Violators will face a fine of up to Dh20,000 for publishing or re-publishing false and misleading health information. MoHAP or other health authorities will impose the fine and follow up on compliance with the resolution.

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