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UAE government briefs media on COVID-19 developments

25 Aug, 2020: The UAE government held a periodic media briefing in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi on Tuesday to present developments related to the efforts, from various state institutions, to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to announce the latest decisions taken by the authorities to protect society from any potential repercussions.

During the briefing, Dr. Omar Al Hammadi, the official spokesman for the media briefing of the UAE government, revealed the latest developments in the health department and the numbers of cases of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Dr. Saif Al Dhaheri, Official Spokesperson of The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, announced the continuous efforts from the authority to confront the pandemic and deal with it in the best possible way.

With him, Salem Al Zaabi, Acting Director of the Federal Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Prosecution, explained the efforts made to maintain security and peace in the UAE.

Dr. Omar Al Hammadi announced the UAE is still at the forefront of the world in total medical examinations compared to the population, and in continuation of this policy, the medical teams in the country conducted 69,309 new examinations. These tests revealed 339 cases, all of which are receiving the necessary health care, therefore bringing the total number of cases diagnosed with COVID-19 to 67,621 cases.

Dr. Omar Al Hammadi also announced 172 new recoveries, bringing the total number of recoveries in the country to 58,754 cases. There was one death, bringing the total deaths in the country to 377 cases. He also pointed out that the number of cases still receiving treatment in health care institutions is 8,490.

Dr. Omar Al Hammadi affirmed that the solidarity of the UAE behind its wise leadership has strongly contributed to facing this challenge. He cited the interaction of large numbers of citizens and residents alike with the "We Commit to Win" campaign. Al Hammadi stressed the UAE is on the right path to recover from the pandemic, noting the need to show commitment, diligence and awareness to accelerate the pace of recovery and overcome this stage.

Dr. Omar Al Hammadi revealed that the observed increase in the number of cases since the beginning of August is approximately 10 percent. This naturally caused an increase in the number of active cases during the past two weeks, from 9.5 percent to 12 percent.

The positive news is that the health care institutions in the country were able to control the death rates to remain at 0.5 percent of the total cases, which clearly reflects the extent of the development of treatment protocols and the integration of health services provided throughout the Emirates.

Al Hammadi also stressed that the UAE is simultaneously making tireless efforts to find a vaccine that will contribute to writing the last chapters of this pandemic, noting that the next phase requires even more cooperation and commitment to support the efforts of the first line of defence and all parties concerned with confronting the disease and limiting its spread.

Al Hammadi stressed the need to adhere to and be responsible by following preventive measures and maintaining physical distancing. He highlighted the scenes that have been monitored on some social media sites, which included gatherings and holding parties in hotels or other facilities without the application of preventive measures, does not comply with what is being continuously demanded from the public.

For his part, Dr. Saif Al Dhaheri, Official Spokesperson of The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, confirmed the joint national media group within the authority is working according to certain methodologies. These methodologies have been developed and approved in cooperation with all partners from the concerned authorities, the media and social networks. The aim of these methodologies is to protect society from misinformation and they are in place to deal with transparency in accordance with the national protocol for the dissemination and exchange of information in media and social networks related to the emerging COVID-19.

Al Dhaheri revealed the authorities began an investigation last Thursday evening immediately after the publishing of a fabricated story about the death of five members of one family as a result of COVID-19. This was actioned to verify the facts and the accuracy of the information contained in the story. Monitoring, follow-up and coordination with the concerned authorities and The Federal Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Prosecution was carried out to investigate the facts in less than 48 hours. Once it became clear that the story was fabricated, the necessary measures were taken.

Al Dhaheri stressed that all those negligent in following the national protocol for the dissemination and exchange of information in the media and social networks related to COVID-19 will be held accountable, stressing that the national media is fighting this pandemic by providing accurate, transparent information and scientific analysis supported by facts. Media have to play an effective role in confronting the large amount of misinformation and rumour’s that have flooded social media platforms since the start of the pandemic.

Al Dhaheri warned against disrespecting the confidence of society and causing panic by broadcasting false news, data or rumours or by broadcasting propaganda and incorrect stories, as they disturb security and community peace, spread terror among people and harm the public interest.

He thanked the authorities who took corrective measures to deal with this issue, explaining that the authority relies on all partners in the national media to verify the accuracy of information so as not to cause any impact on the security of society. Media should be supporting the country's efforts to confront COVID-19, according to the integrated work system that began more than eight months ago, as well as supporting the sacrifices of our heroes from the first lines of defence.

For his part, Salem Al Zaabi, Acting Director of the Federal Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Prosecution revealed all facts related to the incident of the Abu Dhabi Sports channel, which broadcasted live throughout the channel’s correspondent the story of the five deaths from COVID-19 from one family.

The pandemic has negatively affected life in every country, which is why the leadership have been extremely cautious from the start when advising people on how to deal with it professionally, based on solid scientific evidence.

Al Zaabi emphasised that the Public Prosecution was proactive in its procedures to deal with the pandemic, aware of the seriousness of the media in dealing with it. Media are entrusted with educating the public opinion and informing it of the efforts made by the state in the health, security, judicial and economic fields to confront the pandemic and its effects. Based on this conviction Dr. Hamad Saif Al Shamsi, the State Attorney General, held an extended meeting in mid-March with all visual, audio and print media to highlight the extent of the responsibility entrusted to the media and the importance of the media’s message in positive awareness and playing a supportive role for the state's efforts.

Al Zaabi indicated that the state's efforts in this regard have already paid off, as indicators of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in the UAE were among the best indicators in the world.

Al Zaabi noted that the Attorney General stressed in that meeting, based on the important societal role of the Public Prosecution, the necessity of investigating the truth and credibility in everything that is addressed or transmitted through the media about this pandemic, and the need to refer to the responsible and competent authorities before exercising the right to freedom of expression.

The media professionals are the ones who are responsible and the Attorney General of the media, and representatives of the media attending, explained the legal aspect of their roles. This included criminal responsibility resulting from the lack of credibility, recklessness or negligence in what the media professionals are putting out to educate the public about the facts.

Al Zaabi pointed out that the Public Prosecution has not and will not be lenient with anyone who carries out their duties in a non-serious and irresponsible manner. The law will apply firmly and decisively if there is recklessness in performing media responsibility in such circumstances and – as is the case in the last incident – there will be implications for it.

He explained that this incident negatively affected society, afflicted members of the community and left them in a state of confusion and fear of the outbreak, but all of this was on a fictitious basis. Therefore, it affected the state of community peace that must be preserved, as the stability of society is an important and decisive factor in enabling all state authorities to fulfil their responsibilities towards society.

Al Zaabi announced that the Public Prosecutor's Office has rapidly initiated investigation procedures about the incident and is still conducting in-depth enquiries. Not only to determine the legal responsibility and its perpetrators, but to also determine all the facts that are likely to be behind this incident.

This is to reassure all groups of society and their confidence in the precautionary and remedial measures already provided by the state, as well as to ensure the public is confident in the state’s official media channels, which affects all efforts and aspects of life in the country at various security, economic and educational levels, given that the return of students to schools is imminent.

Al Zaabi also affirmed that the Public Prosecution attaches great importance to clarifying the incident that was broadcast on the Abu Dhabi Sports Channel. The incident is false and fabricated, the family does not exist and the story is completely fictitious made up by the first accused individual.

The channel’s correspondent, who is the second accused individual, contradicted his professional work duties and did not contact the relevant authorities to verify the accuracy of the information provided to him.

Al Zaabi revealed that The Public Prosecutor has ordered the preventive detention of the aforementioned individuals pending investigation, in order to ensure the integrity of the investigation procedures that the Public Prosecution undertakes. They are seeking a prosecution and are currently investigating, in order to clarify the situation and elements of what was published and the real motives behind the crime, the entities involved and people behind it.

Al Zaabi explained that the Public Prosecution calls on every official in the media field to exercise responsibility when dealing with the topic of the Corona pandemic, those in who work in the general media and social media pioneers in particular, in order to preserve the health and safety of citizens and residents, as well as the efforts made by our leaders and their relevant authorities.

He stressed that the Public Prosecution, based on their legal authority and transparent societal responsibility, highlighted again that they will not allow any unnecessary upset to the tranquility of society and the safety of its members, and they will apply the law to everyone who is tempted to prejudice this aspect of people's lives.

At the end of the briefing, Dr. Omar Al Hammadi stressed the need for continued cooperation, solidarity and commitment among all members of society in order to preserve the achievements and continue progressing forward. He stressed that the awareness and solidarity of community members, the efforts made in scientific research, and the efforts of the first line of defence has formed the basis for all the positive milestones which have been achieved.

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