Coronavirus Denial Helps Its Spread! » Nigeria - Forum, Blogs, Free classifieds, Business Directory, Events, Polls
by on July 7, 2020
According to Worldometer that tracks data on the spread of coronavirus, the virus has killed 537, 047 worldwide, while the number of confirmed cases around the world is 11, 572, 119.The coronavirus has killed 645 Nigerians and still counting, while Nigeria has 28711 confirmed cases according to the latest report by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as at the time of writing this column. With this growing number of deaths around the world and in Nigeria caused by coronavirus it is a puzzle that there are still people denying its existence.
These are people, who, ignoring not only facts but push disinformation about COVID-19. They are also dangerous actors who might cause real harm to society. So fact-checkers, journalists, health workers, National Orientation Agency (NOA), journalists and others should be on alert for content that denies this obvious crisis and the scientific facts that support it.
Denialism still shows up despite the growing number of death, and it is as far-flung as the pandemic. Recently coronavirus-deniers surfaced in Brazil. A popular video posted by Olavo de Carvalho, a political commentator and far-right figure who is one of the most important supporters of the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, appeared online to express “his opinion” on this issue: “This pandemic simply doesn’t exist. We don’t have a single death that has been traced back to the coronavirus. And to confirm that relationship, we would need to examine each organ of those who have died recently.”
The effect of disinformation is immediate. Leonardo, a famous Brazilian country music singer took the microphone during a concert and said: “Thirty million people in this country are HIV-positive and, let’s be real here, no one uses a condom. Now they say we have 900 people infected with this virus and we have to use a mask?” Then he laughed, and some people in the audience did too. The video went viral. Both Carvalho and Leonardo are considered influencers. Look at what denials by influencers and some government officials caused Brazil. Today, Brazil that has 1,604,585 confirmed cases and still counting and 64,900 deaths-the highest death rate in Latin America and one of the highest death rates in the world.
Facebook and other social media companies have taken steps to remove or block harmful or misleading content, which no doubt includes posts from people who say it doesn’t exist. Also recently, observing the spread of coronavirus-deniers, Twitter decided to act (at least in Brazil).
The platform deleted tweets published by congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, one of Bolsonaro’s sons, and by Ricardo Salles, the Brazilian minister of environment. They had shared a video in which a famous doctor minimized the danger related to coronavirus and suggested that people should maintain their normal lives. The fact that the platforms (Facebook and Twitter) are eager to collaborate in tamping down this activity is good news.
Fact-checkers are used to people who deny science. But unlike other conspiracy theorists, the coronavirus-deniers are potentially life threatening. Nigeria is not immune from coronavirus deniers. Despite the daily rise in the number of infected persons, nearly three in every ten Nigerians believe they have some form of immunity to the coronavirus, a recent poll reveals. The latest survey from NOIPolls Limited, a country-specific polling service, shows that poor knowledge and perception of the virus is still rife.
Now if you can pardon the ‘ignorant public’ what about state governments that are in denial? The Cross River State government has denied the presence of COVID-19 case in the state. The in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Health, Hon. Dr. Betta Edu recently, she denied the presence of COVID-19 in the state.
“The Attention of the Cross River State Ministry of Health has been drawn to rumours circulating in the Social Media and trending by CalabarTrendingTV about a first positive test for Coronavirus (COVID-19) involving a Student of Human Kinetics Department, University of Calabar and isolated at home who had at some point come in contact with some persons. “This is to notify the general public that the information is false and misleading and should not in any way cause unnecessary fear and panic as Cross River State still remains free of COVID-19, the Permanent Isolation Centre still vacant with no patient in it.”
However while the Cross River State government is in denial, the Cross River chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has withdrawn its services from all medical facilities in the state. In a letter addressed to Osagie Ehanire, minister of Health, Agam Ayuk, state chairman of the association, said the lives of the doctors are at risk over the COVID-19 situation in the state. The association wondered why the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has not included Cross River in its daily update of COVID-19.
The association stated five positive cases recorded in the state had their tests done at an approved laboratory of the NCDC, yet their results have not been published in the agency’s situation report. “The Association demands explanation from NCDC, why the five (5) COVID-19 confirmed cases from UCTH carried out at the NCDC accredited Molecular Laboratory at Alex Ekwueme University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, have not reflected in the daily situation report of NCDC long after results had been transmitted to UCTH since July 1, 2020. Congress demands update of the NCDC situation report as a matter of urgent public health interest,” the association said.
Sadly Cross Rivers State is not the only state at dispute with NCDC over the figure of coronavirus positive cases in their state, Kogi State is also on denial and at daggers drawn with NCDC over the existence of COVID-19 in the state or otherwise.
The Kogi State government recently denied the existence of any Coronavirus disease recorded for the state as announced by the NCDC, at its nationwide update. In a Facebook post by the Kogi State Commissioner for Health, Dr Saka Haruna, he said that the ministry and indeed the state government remain unaware of any such case and denied knowledge of the first index case and another. He described the figure credited to the state as mere assumption.
That so many Nigerians including some government officials are coronavirus deniers poses danger to the war against the pandemic and makes it difficult to flatten the curve. It is such COVID-19 deniers, especially the influencer deniers that are making the work of Boss Mustapha-led Presidential Task Force On COVID-19 difficult. At the daily briefings of the Task Force, you could feel their frustration that the public ignores the COVID-19 guidelines. They are aware that with such apathy to the guidelines, the virus may be with Nigeria for a very long time with dire consequences for our health sector and the economy.
Perhaps this is the time for President Muhammadu Buhari to call state governments that are in denial of the existence of coronavirus in their states to order. Coronavirus is a national security issue and as the chief security officer of the country, the President cannot afford to ignore the danger posed by the deniers to the war against COVID-19 pandemic in the country. We can no longer ignore the deniers of coronavirus and the danger they pose to the flattening of the curve in the country!
Aluta Continua!
By Ray Morphy
Tags: covid-19
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