Used responsibly, social media can be a powerful tool, not only for sharing information but also keeping in touch with friends and family. In recent days, however, T&T has experienced the negative side of the online world.
Some individuals with dark agendas have seized on the COVID-19 pandemic to share false information with the intent of triggering panic and confusion. Since the confirmation of T&T's first case on Thursday, some have been taking the time to send out misleading posts, falsely disguised as being from the Ministry of Health and other sources, which serves only to frustrate efforts to keep the disease from spreading in our population.
The actions of these purveyors of untruths have been condemned by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh who quite correctly warned that such activity is worse than coronavirus itself.
Over the past two days alone, the deliberate falsehoods shared via Facebook, Instagram and other platforms about the presence of COVID-19 in T&T have not only caused hysteria and confusion in some segments of the population but have been misleading enough to put lives at risk.
It is not as though there has been a paucity of information from the relevant authorities. Minister Deyalsingh and technocrats at his ministry have been very upfront and proactive in sharing information about the disease and measures put in place locally.
Unfortunately, those who for one reason or another are determined to paint a picture of chaos have been spreading malicious lies, concocting conspiracy theories about hidden cases and fatalities and even indulging in the dangerous practice of misleading citizens about where and how they can be tested and treated.
The truth is that there is still much that is now known about COVID-19, a cure has not been found and there is no vaccine to prevent its spread.
Protection, particularly for vulnerable segments of the population, requires responsible behaviour from all of us, including proper personal hygiene and sourcing information only from authorised sources—in this instance the Ministries of Health and Communication.
While the situation is causing concern, it is important to follow the advice of the experts, not anonymous characters on social media pretending to be medical professionals. In this regard, heed the advice of the Thoracic Medical Director at the Caura Hospital, Dr Michelle Trotman, who in very clear and simple language yesterday asssured that in most cases COVID-19 is a very mild illness.
The focus now must be about limiting the spread of this coronavirus about which so very little is known.
At present, there are only two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in this country and both are reported to be responding to treatment. In addition, contact tracing is being done to ensure the situation does not get out of control.
Social media hysteria will put us all at a disadvantage. We must all do our part calmly and responsibly to get past this public health crisis.