Europe, Globe, Latin America, Uncategorized, United Kingdom

Fake news and a disinfodemic, the other plague

Many researchers, doctors and psychologists are kept busy with the onerous task of explaining all the rumours – spreading like the coronavirus itself, on social media especially – that have no basis in facts or authorised sources on the topic.

 

Becquer Paseiro

 

One of the most widespread falsehoods was that the new coronavirus could not survive heat. Totally false – according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the link between heat and destruction of the virus is not proven.

In fact, the virus spreads easily in countries with hot climates and high humidity like Cuba. Nor is it true that drinking hot water or sun exposure kills the coronavirus, otherwise Cubans would all be immune. Another message was shared through Facebook, calling for people to avoid cold food and drink as the virus spread, and to consume lots of garlic if infected. In this instance, the WHO explained that “there is no evidence that eating garlic protects people from the new coronavirus”.

It was also stated that children are immune to the disease – however, if they are exposed to the respiratory virus, they can catch it just like anyone else. Confirmed cases include minors and older people, and people of other ages with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, hypertension and diabetes.

When international health care bodies declared the pandemic, products such as disinfectant quickly ran out in several countries.

In this regard, the authorities explained that these were effective, provided that they contained 60% alcohol.

Gels made at home using vodka are not effective as they barely contain 40% alcohol, as clarified by representatives from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an attempt to avoid further misinformation, or an abundance thereof (disinfodemic), on 16th April, Facebook announced that users who interact with content about the new coronavirus will be informed if it is found to be false.

For his part, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, described the increasing misinformation as “a poison that is putting even more lives at risk”.

With nearly 7 million people online, Cuba has not escaped misinformation in times of the pandemic. The Caribbean country is battling fake news on virtual platforms too, despite connectivity limitations.

One example is the rumour spread on social media that people were visiting homes to give vaccinations – a fact denied by Cuban health authorities, who warned that this was an attempt to discredit the health care system.

Health Minister, José Ángel Portal, explained that Cuba is tackling the epidemic situation through active investigation, house by house, to identify possible cases of Covid-19 infection.

In turn, WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reported that a vaccine could be ready in 18 months, and that the first clinical trials are already underway.

Given this situation, Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, reiterated that the only vaccine available at this time is responsibility, discipline and social isolation.

The sharing of WhatsApp audio files – in which alleged specialists from medical institutions called for the measures implemented to be ignored – was another phenomenon brought to Cuba by the pandemic.

For this reason, experts emphasise the importance of getting information from official channels, such as the Ministry of Public Health.

The support of the University of Computer Sciences (UCI) is important in this endeavour, through the design of applications and systems for processing information and statistics and promoting communication.

These initiatives include not only the IT tools themselves, such as Todus to send information from Minsap to users (largely young people) – but also the proposed processing systems for the data obtained in laboratories through diagnostic testing. Former UCI vice chancellor, Raydel Montesino, explained on national television that another very useful application has been developed – a virtual researcher that enables people’s health status to be recorded. (PL)

(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu – Emai: rebeccandhlovu@hotmail.co.uk)Photos: Pixabay

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