On Sunday, the UAE recorded its highest number of coronavirus cases as 102 people tested positive that day.
The increase in infections took the total number of cases to 570 in the country with three reported deaths and 58 total recoveries. According to the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHaP), all new cases are in a stable condition.
The UAE was the first Arab nation to report a coronavirus case back in January. The Gulf nation has been trying to contain the spread of the contagion in recent weeks through various measures, much of which wouldn't have been possible without advanced technology.
Here are a few things you need to know about the UAE's fight against COVID-19:
1. Different fines for breaking coronavirus rules
The UAE has been implementing strict measures to restrict the spread of COVID-19. It's been reported that the new rules limit people's movements in a bid to enforce social distancing, which, in turn, will keep the contagion confined.
UAE residents who leave their homes for "unnecessary reasons" will be fined 2,000 dirhams ($545); those who go out during the national sterilization program (8 p.m. - 6 a.m.) will be fined 3,000 dirhams ($817). Only those performing vital jobs or buying "essential necessities" are allowed to leave their homes.
These fines are part of a wider list announced last week by the UAE Attorney-General, Counselor Hamad Saif Al Shamsi. A total of 15 fines have been imposed. Different penalties will be given to those who refuse to follow instructions regarding home quarantine, those caught visiting public areas or organizing house parties, and those allowing more than three persons in the vehicle.
For example, a fine of 50,000 dirhams ($13,612) will be handed out to those who don't comply with home quarantine instructions and who refuse to take the test again as per health protocols. Another fine of the same amount will be handed out to those who violate the closure instructions of educational institutions, cinemas, gyms, sports clubs, malls, outdoor markets, parks, cafés, shopping centers, and restaurants.
2. The national sterilization program
In an attempt to limit the ever-growing spread of the contagion, the UAE sterilized all its public utilities, public transport, and metro services over the weekend. Dubbed the National Sterilization Program, the nationwide measure has recently been extended until April 5.
During the course of the disinfection drive, people must stay home from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day till the aforementioned date. For those who violate the rules, fines will be imposed.
Dubai's Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management launched a website through which residents can request permission to leave home during the sterilization program.
3. UAE ranks second in the world for COVID-19 testing
The UAE has been taking COVID-19 testing seriously. It actually ranks second in the world for the number of coronavirus tests conducted so far, according to numbers released by the Ministry of Health and Prevention.
The ministry has said it has carried out more than 220,000 laboratory tests across the UAE for coronavirus. This number is equivalent to 22,900 tests per a million people — the second highest in the world.
Over the weekend, Abu Dhabi launched a drive-through testing facility that can carry out a COVID-19 test in five minutes.
People who are most at risk of having the virus or vulnerable individuals (elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases) will be prioritized. For those who want to get tested for reassurance only, the procedure will cost 370 dirhams ($100).
The UAE plans to roll out such testing centers across the nation.
4. UAE lifts restrictions on some VoIP programs
Last week, the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) revealed that it'll be unblocking some video and voice calling applications during the quarantine period.
The decision was taken after residents called on authorities to ease the restrictions regularly placed on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, and FaceTime to better communicate with their overseas families. The TRA eventually approved the usage of Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Blackboard on all internet networks within the country, as well as Microsoft's Skype for Business and Google Hangouts on mobile and fixed-line internet networks.
More recently, the UAE further relaxed its restrictions on internet telephony apps such as Cisco Webex, Avaya Spaces, Slack, and BlueJeans.
5. Billions in "stimulus package" to ease the impact of the coronavirus
Last week, the UAE upped the size of its stimulus package to $34 billion. At the same time, the cabinet approved an additional support package of $4.3 billion. These measures were aimed at supporting individuals and enterprises that have been affected by the global pandemic.
Earlier this month, the nation's central bank also rolled out a $27-billion package of measures to support its banks. The emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai have also announced separate measures. On March 16, Abu Dhabi Executive Council (ADEC) launched a set of initiatives under "Ghadan 21" which included a series of stimulus packages to boost small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and ease the availability of loans to local companies. The initiative also included water and electricity subsidies for citizens as well as commercial and industrial activities.
Over the weekend, Dubai Free Zones Council launched an economic stimulus package under the vision of Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The stimulus package comprises five key elements including the postponement of rent payments by a period of six months, facilitating installments for payments, and refunding security deposits and guarantees to name a few.
6. Virtual doctor, virtual medical consultations, and e-learning tools
To minimize commutes to clinics for consultations regarding the coronavirus, the Dubai Health Authority has provided residents with an application that allows them to communicate for free with healthcare professionals. The UAE also enlisted a "virtual doctor" to help diagnose potential cases of the novel coronavirus. Dubbed the COVID-19 Virtual Doctor, the project was launched by the country's Ministry of Health and Prevention.
Commuting to work has also been reduced as many companies in the Gulf nation have switched to remote work in times of COVID-19. Schools have closed as well but that hasn't affected the UAE as much as other Arab countries. This is because many institutions in the country have already been implementing e-learning systems prior to the pandemic. The UAE is one of the only regional nations that has already been moving towards building a digital infrastructure that can facilitate e-classrooms. The country continuously launches initiatives aimed at bolstering this kind of distance learning process. These include "Madrasa," an e-learning platform offered in Arabic.