KATHMANDU, March 31: At a time when the market is rife with fake news and rumors about COVID-19, the government on Monday said that those creating and circulating misinformation will face legal action as per the existing law.
In a press briefing, Dr Khem Karki, advisor to the Minster for Health and Population, said that those circulating fake rumors and news about the virus will face action as per the Infectious Diseases Act, 1964.
As per the law, such individuals shall face a jail term of up to six months or a fine of up to Rs 600 or both.
In the meantime, police have already arrested an individual from Bhaktapur a week ago for producing fake news about the coronavirus. According to police, they are still searching for almost a dozen individuals on the charge of creating fake rumors about the virus.
Likewise, the health minister's advisor also urged the public to stay inside their homes at the time of lockdown. “The government has placed the country under a lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. But, people have been crowding the streets in the evenings,” said Karki, adding that only one member of a family should go outside the house to buy essentials.
“There is no other option than undergoing quarantine to prevent COVID-19,” the advisor said, urging the foreign-returnees to stay in self-quarantine for at least 14 days.
Likewise, the advisor also urged the public not to link every death in the country with the coronavirus. “This is the time when we have to take extra precautionary measures to stay away from the virus. Not every death occurs from the coronavirus. Until now, there have been five imported cases of coronavirus, and there are no signs of local and community transmissions yet,” said Karki, urging the people not to panic during the lockdown.
Similarly, the health ministry said that the government has been tracing those who had shared same flights with COVID-19 patients. “Those traced have already been tested, and all of them have tested negative for the virus,” according to the ministry.
Likewise, during the briefing, Dr Bikash Devkota, spokesperson for the health ministry, said that the government has started testing the suspects aggressively. He also confirmed that a COVID-19 suspect, who died in Butwal on Sunday, has been tested negative for the virus.
Likewise, he also informed Republica that the swab samples of three suspects – two in Bir Hospital and one in Patan Hospital – who died Monday have been sent to the National Public Health Laboratory for COVID-19 tests.
Until Monday evening, the government has tested 993 swab samples, of which, five came positive.