Coronavirus has finished, the virus doesn’t spread in warm regions like Africa. Every day, you see statements along these lines on the internet.
The rapid global spread of COVID-19 has been accompanied by what the World Health Organization has described as a “massive infodemic”. Huge demand for information on the disease, its toll on health-care systems and lives, and the many unanswered questions about a virus that was discovered only in December 2019 have created the perfect breeding ground for myths, fake news, and conspiracy theories.
Some can be dismissed as ludicrous and largely harmless, but others are life-threatening.
In this interview of the #TogetherAgaintCorona series, a virologist shared about the dangers and the way forward of misinformation in the midst of the pandemic.
The Tweet Chat:
How has fake news led to misinformation?
Dr. Chollom: As the name implies, fake news is not real news. It is concocted lies based on conspiracy or based on inadequate information. Either way, it has added to the burden of misinformation about the pandemic and thickened the unbelief system about the pandemic
What should we consider as misinformation?
Dr. Chollom: Misinformation is basically misrepresentation of facts. It could be due to ignorance or purely based on conspiracy to becloud the truth and mislead the public.
Who’s qualified to carry authentic news about COVID-19?
Dr. Chollom: Every concerned citizen is expected to carry the right message. Where information is grey, don’t make it up from your head. Instead, seek clarification from professionals or authentic sites like WHO or NCDC. When in doubt, keep silent.
Are there tools we can use to fact check rumours about COVID-19?
Dr. Chollom: We are in an era of multiple information sources. We can fact check from online sources like the John Hopkins University Dashboard. We can also do the same from health professionals around us. While doing this, we must have an open mind to accept the fact
Where can we verify the authenticity of the Covid related information?
Dr. Chollom: Verify from health professionals, from proven websites like CDC, WHO, NCDC and also, from published works on tested journals like Elsevier, PLOS, etc
What are the roles of CSOs in ensuring the fight against fake news?
Dr. Chollom: There is so much the CSO can do especially as there appears to be a trust deficit between the government and the citizens. We have seen a coalition of CSOs like CaCOVID make good donations. We have seen some embarking on research and here is SFCG doing much on enlightenment.
What are the roles of religious leaders in curbing the myths of the pandemic?
Dr. Chollom: Religion is powerful for a mind shift. Adherents believe their leaders as they believe God. So it is important to get the buy-in of religious leaders in this fight against the pandemic. That way, they will serve as vanguards of authentic info dissemination
What should a person who was infected with the virus do with his status or result? Is it advisable to let the public know?
Dr. Chollom: We encourage people to disclose their status. It is one way of dealing with the stigma if any. It also builds confidence in the system, especially if someone tested positive, went in for treatment then returns with a negative result.
They’re news about the second wave of the pandemic, how should we prepare for this & what should we expect?
Dr. Chollom: Obviously, the second wave is upon us in Nigeria judging from the sudden hike in positive cases. The way out is to take personal responsibility by masking up, washing our hands and observing respiratory etiquette.
Dr Chollom, thank you for joining the chat tonight, so far, are they unanswered questions you’d like to talk about?
Dr. Chollom: Misgivings about the COVID-19 vaccine? Please know that vaccines pass through a series of validations before passed for use. I don’t see how producers will conspire with all countries to lie about this since countries are expected to validate before use.