The United Arab Emirates (UAE) residents who ignore Covid mandates, such as lockdowns, or are found to be spreading online “misinformation”regarding the pandemic – in this case, making fun of those mandates on social media – could find themselves serving time and paying fines.
This is what the Federal Emergency Crisis and Disasters Prosecution on January 10 cautioned those living there against doing, with the Gulf country’s news agency citing a statement that said it was not permitted to either spread “rumors and false information” about Covid measures, or flaunt them.
What has prompted this “reminder” are social media users posting photos and videos from Covid patients on UAE’s official contact tracing and health status app Al-Hosn. This content was shared along with mocking comments and songs, taking aim at the measures in question.
If found guilty of spreading such misinformation, social media users can be imprisoned for at least two years and ordered to pay a fine equivalent to $54,450. The legal basis for these are new laws, while the prosecution also warned such activity can be punished with administrative sanctions designed to combat rumors and cybercrimes.
The prosecution’s statement quoted by Middle East Eye doesn’t specify what kind of apparently joking photos and songs about Covid measures are now considered to be misinformation, but residents are called upon to refrain from such behavior and instead support the country’s efforts on this front.
In the UAE, current measures introduced since the emergence of the Omicron strain include regular, two-week PCR testing in order to enter government premises, while those who have not received a booster dose of a Covid vaccine cannot travel abroad.
Meanwhile, foreign travelers not eligible for a visa can get a tourist visa and enter the country with a vaccination certificate. Those who have not been vaccinated are under obligation to produce a negative PCR test before departure.
Face masks are mandatory in all public spaces and on public transport, while restaurants, as well as bars and nightclubs, work with reduced capacity, with the aim of achieving social distancing.