Covid-19 is spreading across the country, so is misinformation.
The mainstream media and health ministry’s official social media handles are bombarded with queries from confused individuals.
Screen shots of conversations and fabricated posts are being shared widely without any validation. This is taking place in the face of an already raging infodemic.
We have come a long way in addressing such issues, partly due to the efforts of the agencies and others debunking rumours.
For instance, now people know drinking alcohol cannot save oneself from the infection or that basking in the sun won’t kill the virus and that we have to use face masks, maintain social distancing and wash hands.
But this time the scale and pace of the misinformation is much more intense and aggressive. The stakes are greater this time as Thimphu alone reported 22 cases already and more could appear from the ongoing tests. Curiosity heightens every time there is a major event such as the recent local Covid-19 outbreak. Being a gossip-mongering society only adds to the problems.
Many a false rumour, insult or prank is passed on some beguiled and others for a quick pleasure of amusing those in their circles. This then ultimately spill over on to the social media mostly through anonymous accounts and groups or pages that have thousands of followers.
The information and communications ministry has already established connections with Facebook office in India, which must be intimated to help sort this menace. The public also has to report fake news to the respective social media organisations. Such groups must be deactivated or shut down.
Another big problem is people privy to information leaking it in their private circles, which often spills into the public domain. We have come across even confidential documents with details of the 25-year-old woman and others who tested positive. Given the poor understanding of the virus among the masses, those who contracted are targeted, insulted and even discriminated for “bringing the disease.”
Agencies that deal with information related to infected individuals and test results must ensure confidentiality. Even relaying such information to the public must be streamlined. The health ministry alone should be the custodian of such details and release them efficiently and with clarity. We have learnt enough lessons from the first round of Coivd-19 scare.