Combating coronavirus: New fines announced for violators in UAE

News Network
May 19,2020

Dubai, May 19: The UAE announced 832 new Covid-19 cases on Monday following 37,844 additional tests, taking the total tally of coronavirus infections in the country to 24,190.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention also reported four additional deaths, taking the death toll to 224. Meanwhile 1,065 patients also recovered after receiving the necessary treatment, taking the total number of recoveries to 9,577, the ministry said.

“We see a daily increase in cases due to the irresponsible behaviour of some people who are not aware of the consequences of not adhering to health guidelines,” said Dr Amna Al Dahak Al Shamsi, official spokesperson of the UAE government.

“The widening circle of infections requires no more than a few violations by just one or two people to completely infect families with the coronavirus,” she said.

“The decision to partially ease restrictions is aimed at achieving a balance between meeting the needs of a segment of society, whose source of income is linked to the commodity trade sector, and between continuing to adhere to the recommended health guidelines, and hence many restrictions and conditions have to be followed.”

However, she also appreciated the citizens and residents adhering to the precautionary measures.

“It is heartening for us to see many families committed to avoiding family gatherings,” she said. “As we prepare for Eid Al-Fitr, we are confident that citizens and residents will continue to adhere to health and preventive guidelines, and serve as role models to the world,” she added.

Change in disinfection programme timings

Officials also announced that the UAE’s National Disinfection Programme will now be in place from 8pm to 6am, starting Wednesday, May 20, until further notice. The scheme currently runs from 10pm until 6am.

Dr Saif Al Dhaheri, spokesman of the National Authority for Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management said the amendment comes in light of the “increased number of Covid-19 cases, and the leniency of some members of society and their indifference to preventive measures”.

Food outlets, cooperative societies, groceries, supermarkets, and pharmacies will continue to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the sterilisation programme period.

Meanwhile meat and vegetable shops and outlets selling fruits, toasters, mills, slaughterhouses, fish, coffee and tea, in addition to shops selling nuts, sweets and chocolate, can operate from 6am until 8pm.

Shopping centres and malls can stay open from 9am to 7pm starting Wednesday, May 20, officials added.

“We stress the importance of all stores and those authorised to operate to adhere to the applicable health and safety procedures, which include ensuring that the percentage of shoppers does not exceed 30 per cent of the total capacity,” said Al Dhaheri.

He also confirmed that children under 12 and those over 60 will not be permitted to enter malls and shopping centres.

“We warn visitors to the centres that the shopping period should not exceed two hours in order to reduce the crowding of shoppers, and to maintain the 30 per cent capacity.”

Eid restrictions

Al Dhaheri urged the public to avoid family visits and gatherings during Eid Al Fitr this year and to instead communicate using online means or by phone. He also stressed that people should refrain from distributing ‘Eid’ money to children.

“With regard to Eid prayers, we stress the importance of adhering to what was mentioned by the Emirates Legal Fatwa Council, which is to pray at home and to take health protection reasons as a legal obligation, a necessity of life, and a national commitment,” he added.

Heftier fines

Officials also announced heftier fines to ensure that the regulations are being adhered to.

“It was clear to us, in light of the follow-up, that there was reckless behaviour from some individuals, along with the insistence of some to commit a certain type of violation as well as indifference,” said Salem Al-Zaabi, acting head of the Public Prosecution for Emergencies, Crisis and Disasters.

The Public Prosecution has decided to update the list of previously announced violations and fines and administrative penalties to “suit the current situation”, he said.

Some of the new fines include:

– Dhs50,000 on educational institutions, cinemas, gym, stores, parks, beaches, pools or supermarkets that do not adhere to coronavirus measures

– Dhs50,000 fine on those who don’t adhere to quarantine restrictions

– Dhs10,000 for organising gatherings with participants also fined Dhs5,000 each

– Dhs5000 for refusing to do a Covid-19 test

– Dhs3,000 for not wearing a mask in public

– Dhs3,000 if more than three people are travelling in one car

– Dhs3,000 for companies failing to adhere to the 30 per cent limit on workforce at office

– Dhs3,000 for not adhering to social distancing

– Dhs3,000 fine for violating restrictions during the disinfection period

Repeat offenders will be referred to the Public Prosecution and can face a criminal trial with the possibility of imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months and/or a fine of at least Dhs100,000.

“The pictures and names of violators will be published in newspapers and media upon the decision of the Public Prosecutor if he deems it necessary,” added Al Zaabi.

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Pilgrims converge on Mount Arafat for peak of hajj

Agencies
July 31,2020

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Mount Arafat, July 30: Muslim pilgrims converged Thursday on Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat for the climax of this year's hajj, the smallest in modern times and a sharp contrast to the massive crowds of previous years.

A tight security cordon has been erected all around the foot of the rocky hill outside Mecca, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy.

Pilgrims, donning masks and observing social distancing, were brought in buses from neighbouring Mina, state television showed, as Saudi authorities impose measures to prevent a coronavirus outbreak.

They were subject to temperature checks and attended a sermon -- which state media said was translated into 10 languages -- before they set off on the climb to the summit for hours of Koran recitals and prayers to atone for their sins.

The scene was strikingly different to last year's ritual when a sea of pilgrims ascended Mount Arafat, marshalled by tens of thousands of stewards in a bid to prevent any crushes.

After sunset prayers, pilgrims will make their way down Mount Arafat to Muzdalifah, another holy site where they will sleep under the stars to prepare for the final stage of hajj, the symbolic "stoning of the devil".

It takes place on Friday and also marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice.

The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

But only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will participate in this year's ritual, compared with 2019's gathering of some 2.5 million from around the world.

"You are not our guests but those of God, the custodian of the two holy mosques (Saudi Arabia's King Salman) and the nation," Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten said in a video released by the media ministry on Wednesday.

Security cordon

A security cordon has been thrown around the holy sites to prevent any security breaches, an interior ministry spokesman said.

Riyadh faced strong criticism in 2015 when some 2,300 worshippers were killed in the deadliest stampede in the gathering's history.

But this year, those risks are greatly reduced by the much smaller crowd.

The pilgrims have all been tested for the virus, and foreign journalists were barred from this year's hajj, usually a huge global media event.

As part of the rites completed over five days in the holy city of Mecca and its surroundings, the pilgrims converged on Mount Arafat after spending the night in Mina.

A district of Mecca, Mina sits in a narrow valley surrounded by rocky mountains, and is transformed each year into a vast encampment for pilgrims.

They began the hajj on Wednesday with their first "tawaf", the circumambulation of the Kaaba, a large structure in Mecca’s Grand Mosque towards which Muslims around the world pray.

The Kaaba is draped in a black cloth embroidered in gold with Koranic verses and known as the kiswa, which is changed each year during the pilgrimage.

Pilgrims were brought inside the mosque in small batches, walking along paths marked on the floor, in sharp contrast to the normal sea of humanity that swirls around the Kaaba during hajj.

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Hosting ‘limited’ hajj required double efforts amid pandemic: Saudi king

Agencies
July 31,2020

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Makkah, Jul 31: Organising this year's scaled-down hajj required "double efforts" by Saudi authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic, King Salman said Friday after being discharged from hospital following gall bladder surgery.

Only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom are participating in this year's pilgrimage, compared with 2019's gathering of some 2.5 million from around the world.

"Holding the ritual in the shadow of this pandemic... required reducing the numbers of pilgrims, but it obliged various official agencies to put in double efforts," 84-year-old King Salman said in a speech read out on state television by acting media minister Majid Al-Qasabi.

"The hajj this year was restricted to a very limited number of people from multiple nationalities, ensuring the ritual was completed despite the difficult circumstances," he said.

The speech came on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim festival of sacrifice, a day after the king left hospital following a 10-day stay for surgery to remove his gall bladder.

The hajj, which began on Wednesday, is one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime.

Authorities implemented the "highest health precautions" during the rituals, the king said.

Pilgrims, who were all tested for the virus, are required to wear masks and observe social distancing.

For Friday's "stoning of the devil", the last major ritual of the hajj, Saudi authorities offered the pilgrims pebbles that were sanitised to protect against the pandemic.

In a sign that its strict measures were working, the health ministry reported no coronavirus cases in the holy sites on Wednesday or Thursday.

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Benjamin Netanyahu corruption trial resumes

Agencies
July 19,2020

Occupied Jerusalem, Jul 19: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumed on Sunday.

Netanyahu is charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals in which he is alleged to have received lavish gifts from billionaire friends and exchanged regulatory favors with media moguls for more agreeable coverage of himself and his family.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing, painting the accusations as a media-orchestrated witchhunt pursued by a biased law enforcement system.

The trial opened in May. Just before appearing in front of the judges, Netanyahu took to a podium inside the courthouse and flanked by his party members bashed the country’s legal institutions in an angry tirade.

Netanyahu was not expected to appear at Sunday’s hearing, which is taking place at an occupied Jerusalem court and is mostly a procedural deliberation.

The trial resumes as Netanyahu faces widespread anger over his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

While the country appeared to have tamped down a first wave of infections, what’s emerged as a hasty and erratic reopening sent infections soaring. Yet even amid the rise in new cases Netanyahu and his emergency government — formed with the goal of dealing with the crisis — appeared to neglect the numbers and moved forward with other policy priorities and its reopening plans.

It has since paused them and even re-impose restrictions, including a weekend only lockdown set to begin later this week.

Netanyahu’s government has been criticized for a baffling, halting response to the new wave, which has seen daily cases rise to nearly 2,000. It has been slammed for its handling of the economic fallout of the crisis.

His trial thus comes at inopportune timing. Netanyahu had hoped to ride on the goodwill he gained from overcoming the first wave of infections going into his corruption trial, but the increasingly souring mood has affected his approval rating and may deny him the public backing he had hoped for. The anger has sparked protests over the past few weeks that have culminated in violent clashes with police.

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