UAE Health Ministry, national health authorities sole bodies responsible for disseminating health information to the public

Photo: WAM

The UAE Cabinet today 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 AED20,000 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.

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.

The campaign is the first initiative of the Higher National Committee for Regulating Volunteering during Crisis, headed by H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Emirates Foundation.

Tahlak added, "Volunteering under such circumstances is a national duty. We urge citizens and residents to join the 'UAE Volunteers' campaign and register at volunteers.ae. For any inquiries, they may call 80086523. Remote volunteer opportunities are also available, and they include delivering online sessions in various fields, health awareness and mental and psychological support programs, and art and sports offerings. Our volunteers have also reached out to 1,500 senior citizens over the phone. Currently, we have 900 volunteers supporting the National Disinfection Programme and stationed at our national screening and testing centers, call centers, and quarantine sites across the country."

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."

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