Dubai: Authorities are clamping down on rumours, and warning residents that spreading rumours is a serious offence that will be severely penalised.
People who circulate rumours may be jailed for one year if they spread false information, and may be held accountable according to the articles of the Federal Criminal Law and the Federal Law to Combat Cybercrime. However, it may be less than a year depending on the crime they commit.
On Wednesday, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) issued a cautionary notice to residents not to circulate any type of information unless published by verified sources. It also urged the public to follow all preventive measures issued by official health authorities in the country with regard to the coronavirus, and stressed that spreading fake news about COVID-19 is “causing more harm than the virus itself.”
As of April 1, the UAE recorded a total to 664 COVID-19 cases and six deaths.
What are some of the fake news going around social media? According to Ajman Police, a few of the popular fabrications claim that the UAE’s number is higher than officially recorded, that a sneeze of an infected person can contaminate people up to eight metres away, and that a coronavirus patient can die within days of contracting the virus.
Article 197 of the UAE penal law stipulates that any person who uses any means to share or publish rumours shall be sentenced to temporary imprisonment.
Article 198 of the federal law further states that any person who intentionally disseminates false or malicious news, statements, rumours or disruptive propaganda, intending to prejudice the public security, to spread fear among people or to inflict damage to public interest, shall be punished.
Ask a virtual doctor
Residents who have any questions or doubts about the coronavirus, or any queries on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, can ask a virtual doctor straight from the comfort of their home.
One of the most recent initiatives launched by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), in collaboration with Twitter, was the popular campaign #AskDXBdoctor, which aims to increase the availability of credible health information on COVID-19 through an open dialogue with the public.
During the campaign, members of the public are invited to ask questions, either in Arabic or English, to registered doctors in Dubai.
Dr Walid Abuhammour, head of paediatric infectious diseases department at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, recently responded to questioned posed by the public, which include whether it is safe to breastfeed children if the mother is under home quarantine, and if the coronavirus is airborne or not.
Earlier Gulf News reports explained that the DHA has been focusing on reaching out to the community and providing them with reliable information about COVID-19.
“This platform provides another important channel to open dialogue between our doctors and the public in order to share reliable information about the virus and answer all COVID-19 related concerns,” said Abdullah Juma, Director of Institutional Marketing and Communications Department at DHA.
To get direct access to coronavirus-related information from health authorities in the UAE, follow these organisations on their social media accounts:
Ministry of Health and Prevention @mohapuae
Dubai Health Authority @dha_dubai
Department of Health Abu Dhabi @dohsocial
Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre @adphc_ae