PHOTO BY: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

President Donald J. Trump signs the proclamation declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak on Friday, March 13, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House

Washington, DC – US President Donald Trump announced a nationwide coronavirus emergency which he noted could last until the end of the summer or even longer. Listing the advisory for his fellow citizens, the president said Americans over the next 15 days should not gather in groups of more than 10 and avoid bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and crowds.

Announcing new guidelines at the White House, Trump said the country is facing “an invisible enemy” that is “so contagious.”

New recommendations by Trump:

All older Americans are urged to stay home, while work and schooling for everyone should be from home

Discretionary travel, shopping trips and social visits should be avoided and people should stay away from nursing homes or retirement facilities

Anyone in a household who tests positive for the virus should remain at home along with everyone who lives there

With the government machinery slowly getting into full gear, the scenario is rife with misinformation as populations face sequestered existence in their homes. With many states closing access to public places, employers letting work from home and schools going for virtual classrooms, most of the information is consumed online.

Reports emerge of sham cure hawking, religious sentiment-mongers touting miracle protection and cures while officials are not sure of facts as politicians make statements for their own electoral benefits.

Under such circumstances, it is imperative duty of the journalism community to make sure the population is fed fact-based and experts-vetted information on the prevention and more prevention as there is no cure yet on the horizon.

Amol Rajan, Media editor on the BBC put it in right perspective: “Much of the fake news is spreading through private forums – whether chat rooms online or on WhatsApp, a platform for encrypted messages. Some of these messages clearly come from disreputable websites, such as the disgraceful InfoWars, which has linked the response to coronavirus to some kind of malign plot by Bill Gates. If you look to Infowars for reliable information, your judgement isn’t up to much.”

With Coronavirus sending fear of the unknown and confusion in the face of lack of authentic knowledge, there is a blend of politically motivated conspiracy theories and a conspicuous downplay of the seriousness of the pathogen causing the outbreak. Certain vested interest groups challenged scientific accounts of the emergence of the new coronavirus, and debunked fact-submissions by experts instead blaming governmental or individual agendas.

With the shortcomings of current responses to misinformation in the context of the pandemic COVID-19 spread, time is right for the elected members of government and other watchdogs of democracy to guard against some of the fake news propagators as self-regulation seems to have exhausted its possibilities in those quarters.


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