First it was about what prevents people from contracting coronavirus: Take a little bit of alcoholic drinks, eat garlic and turmeric, take some cow urine, even dung. Then it shifted to what causes the infection: the person who lives and comes from the country affected by the virus. So there was racial attack on people who looked like Asian, Chinese to be particular, and they were insulted and even blamed to be the carriers of the disease. In three months since the outbreak of coronavirus, which later took pandemic proportion, and which is ravaging the whole world at the moment, disinformation, misinformation and wrong information about the source of the virus, its infection rate and remedies have become the subject of deep worry for the countries which are struggling to combat the disease as well as the countries which are struggling to prevent its outbreak. Nepal has not been the exception to this trend.
Some have created and spread such false information in social media networks that the sense of panic among people has increased rapidly. Recently, a youth posted a video claiming that there have been at least half a dozen deaths due to coronavirus in a major hospital in Kathmandu but the government is hiding the information. The person who spread this misinformation said it in such a way that one would easily believe in him. Thanks to Nepal Police, he was tracked down and jailed. The hospital in question also made it clear that there have been no coronavirus patients in it and that people should not believe in misinformation. On Sunday, another report came out. It said that a resident of Birgunj was tested positive. A number of media outlets, print and online, carried that news, which created panic. Now it has been established that the person in question was tested and found negative.
There has to be coordinated efforts from all sides—the government, media and police—to ensure that people are not misinformed about Covid-19 and its status in Nepal. The government has taken some good measures to prevent its spread in Nepal. But the government ministers are found to be saying just anything about it. Recently, Minister of Land Management and Cooperative declared that immunity of the Nepalis is the strongest in the world and therefore Nepalis need not worry about corona infection. That was another piece of misinformation. In this context, Ministry of Health should start issuing daily bulletin on Covid-19 that includes what is the current state of infection rate (if any), the rate of recovery, where the patients are being treated, what the government is doing and everything related to the pandemic. In fact, there should be daily media brief by the government. Meanwhile, Fusemachines Nepal, an AI company, has launched a one-stop portal to provide verified information to people about Covid-19 in Nepal. This company can coordinate with the government as well. Lack of information regarding preventive measures can be threatening to public health. But misinformation can be fatal in many ways. Thus it is getting late for the government and media, state owned as well as private, to work together to provide verified information about the Covid-19. We need to stand together against misinformation.