The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is putting world governments, health care services and the entire population in check. And it is in the latter, in my opinion, that the greatest responsibility lies. Worldwide organizations, individual governments, and even autonomous regions, in the case of Spain, where I am from, issue a range of measures to be adopted to try and halt the spread of the virus; an end for which the health care services also work tirelessly. But what can the rest of society do? Simple. Heed the recommendations, but not just any recommendations. It is very important that these come from official communications.
This, though it seems obvious, is not. Human fear and stupidity are the worst enemy in a crisis like this. Whatsapp messages, documents manipulated in a screenshot or simple rumours that spread like wildfire via our mobile phones (for example, in certain countries, the mass purchase of masks and toilet paper even though, unless the WHO says otherwise, the coronavirus does not cause diarrhea), have reached countless people, provoking even more hysteria if possible. As my colleague Águeda García de Durango wrote on the basis of information provided by the WHO and other official sources, there is a near-constant stream of news reports about COVID-19 and some of them are rumours and misinformation. Unfortunately, these do not stop coming and what makes things worse, is that sometimes they are broadcasted by influencers with millions of followers who take note of their recommendations. This is a huge lack of responsibility.
Human fear and stupidity are the worst enemy in a crisis like this
For example, in Spain, the influencer Paula Gonu did more harm than good to a situation in which the authorities stress the need for calm and collaboration, as well as to follow the advice given by the World Health Organization. The Catalan influencer shared on her Instragram account that drinking hot water helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Without scientific evidence, Paula Gonu assured her two million followers that drinking hot water was good because “the virus does not survive to temperatures of 27 degrees Celsius or more.” A false reasoning, taking into account that the human body temperature is 36 degrees Celsius, 9 degrees above the previously mentioned temperature.
As expected, she was severely criticised through social media, where she was judged harshly (and rightly so) and called “irresponsible” and “ignorant”. As a result, she was forced to write a short statement where she said to listen to the doctors and admitted she had no idea on the subject.
To finish, I would like to highlight some advice and facts on the coronavirus published by the World Health Organization on their official Twitter account, an official source.
The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about #COVID19 can cause anyone to feel worried.
— United Nations (@UN) March 16, 2020
— WHO Uganda (@WHOUganda) March 16, 2020