According to media reports, the coronavirus situation has forced the UAE government to suspend school for one month. This decision has once again sparked discussions about the ban on “UAE instant messaging applications”. The ban prohibits people from making free calls over the Internet, which complicates distance learning and work at home.
In order to curb the new coronavirus epidemic, the UAE Ministry of Education recently issued a statement announcing that starting from this Sunday (March 8), all public and private schools and higher education institutions will suspend classes for 4 weeks. During the suspension period, students can take homework through the distance education system.
Prior to this, the UAE Ministry of Education has instructed all schools to cancel extracurricular group activities including competitions, tours, and parties. Currently, 27 people in the UAE are infected with the new coronavirus.
85% of the UAE’s population are foreigners, and the country bans people from using instant messaging applications (VoIP calls). This includes Microsoft’s Skype, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s FaceTime. These restrictions have long frustrated foreigners who want to stay in touch with family and friends in their hometown.
UAE may now reconsider its ban on VoIP calls
In response, Sultan Sooud al-Qassami, a UAE columnist with 490,000 followers, said on Twitter today: “Given the spread of the coronavirus, I strongly recommend that the UAE now reconsider its Ban on VoIP calls. You don’t want people to talk face to face, you have to let them do business online. “
Global companies such as Twitter and JP Morgan Chase currently encourage employees to work from home. A survey released today by online recruitment portal GulfTalent shows that one-third of Gulf companies plan to have employees work from home to deal with the virus threat.
As of now, there is no comment from the UAE Telecommunications Authority (TRA). In the UAE, VoIP calls are banned, but people can use these services through a virtual private network (VPN). However, this is considered a cybercrime and could result in fines, imprisonment, or both. The fines could be as high as AED 500,000 (about $136,000).
This is not the first time that the ban on instant messaging applications in the country has come under fire. Last year, billionaire and UAE businessman Khalaf Al Habtoor called on Twitter to lift the restriction.