“Just before the lockdown, people came in large numbers and took large quantities of N-95 masks each. After a while, we realized that people were hoarding N-95 masks due to the fear mongered by their Whatsapp messages. But till that time we were short of N-95 masks, which in reality – are just for doctors and not for common people. The misinformation spread led to hoarding, which further led to a shortage of the masks for doctors.”
– A Chemist.
The lanes of history takes us back to the Black Death of the 14th century, also originated near China, following the routes of pilgrimage throughout Middle East, and entered Europe and then Italy through trade routes. The outbreak of Coronavirus and the Black Death have two glaring similarities –
One, it affected the respiratory system and the transmission was through humans by coughing and/or sneezing.
Two, Chinese whispers’, have social consequences due to the spread of fake information. Then from word of mouth, and now with the help of social media platforms leads to the spread of community anxiety, discrimination and hatred along with the plague.
Hard Times: Misinformation and Fake News
The information spread, here, isn’t adhering to any kind social distancing, and (like the virus) spreads like a wildfire.
Covid-19 has taken over all of our minds. People on the frontlines are facing challenges to find vaccinations, convincing people to maintain social distancing and find basic equipments to stay safe themselves. Instead of coming to their aid with proper information, the channel of fake news continues to fuel shocks of misinformation in the climate of fear, misery and illness.
The World Health Organization (WHO) worries that in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, we mustn’t forget that we have to also need to combat an infodemic that has come with it. The term (aptly) coined by WHO, defines an ‘overburden and spread of (mis)information – some accurate, most not – making it difficult to tap information that would be trustworthy and reliable.’
Going Viral with Fake News – An Issue
The potential misinformation has to cause destruction is sometimes more than the virus itself. Even in normal situations misinformation causes a lot of havoc, and can also turn into violence and chaos in certain cases. Now, that we are amidst a global crisis at hand, such infodemic creates an atmosphere of fear. The minds and lives of people are boggled with terror amidst a grave crisis. The behavior of individuals and the lack of health literacy lead to glaring effects on the physical and mental health outcomes.
Amidst such uncertainty and skepticism, the question then arises who to trust for the truth amidst so much noise? The answer to that is –
Infographic Credits: Akanksha Ahluwalia
The noise of fake news can be silenced since we have all the access to verify the authenticity and accuracy of the information at our disposal. Presently, the best source to be well-versed with any kind of health information and keep fake news at bay is through the platforms of Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.
Let this pandemic be a wakeup call for us to come together and fight against it in solidarity, and ponder over what Björk said, “I feel in this time…it is a necessity to have a plan, a manifesto, and an alternative. It’s a question of life and death for our species…after tragedies one has to invent a new world, knit it or embroider, make it up. It’s not going be given to you because you deserve it, it doesn’t work that way. You have to imagine something that doesn’t exist and dig a cave into the future and demand space. It’s a territorial hope affair…in the future it will become your reality.”
UNICEF (2020), “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): What parents should know” Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/stories/novel-coronavirus-outbreak-what-parents-should-know
Okan, Orkan, S. Kristine and M. Melanie (March 2020), “COVID-19: a guide to good practice on keeping people well informed” Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/covid-19-a-guide-to-good-practice-on-keeping-people-well-informed-134046
Giving Facts a Fighting Chance (2020)
Retrieved from https://newslit.org/coronavirus/