As the latest strain of human coronavirus grows to pandemic proportions around the globe, the spread of misinformation about the disease in Barbados has itself gone viral, prompting Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic to warn against fear and panic.
He said the ministry was doing all in its power to ensure that Barbadians had access to the correct information, urging the public to pay attention only to the news coming from credible sources.
Lt. Col. Bostic said: “I am concerned about the level of misinformation that is out there.
“We have decided as a Government that we are going to put all of our resources to work for the benefit of the citizens of this country by mounting a very comprehensive campaign.”
Last week a voice note went viral on social media in which an unidentified female declared the popular Dome Mall was closed by authorities because of a suspected case of the virus.
The note further claimed that a worker at a Chinese restaurant, who had recently returned from China, was showing signs of a respiratory illness.
The message was later dispelled by authorities as a malicious rumour.
But the Health Minister noted that even though there was little that could be done to totally stamp out the misinformation, he hopes that Barbadians would exercise good judgement. He pointed out that this had the potential to create fear and panic, something he deemed as dangerous as the virus itself.
Lt. Col. Bostic said: “We can’t stop misinformation, but we have everything in our power to be able to put out the correct information and to put it out there as often as we possibly can.
“This is one of the reasons that I have been speaking to the media as often as I have and there is a programme which is coming that would ensure that each and every household gets the appropriate information.”
Bostic raised the concern just two days before Chinese Ambassador to Barbados Yan Xiushen, called for countries to respond to the health crisis in a “fair, calm and rationale manner”, consistent with suggestions from the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Chinese Ambassador also praised the Barbados Government’s “appropriate” response.
Xiusheng declared at the Rockley, Christ Church embassy: “Fear is more horrible and infectious than the virus itself.
“Faced with a public health issue, the international community should work together to overcome difficulties instead of just watching the fire burn from across the river or making things worse for those experiencing difficulties.
“This is in the interest of the people of the world.”