COVID-19: Rumors VS Facts

I have heard that a patient at Mwayiwathu hospital, in Malawi,  has been found with COVID-19. I have heard that a patient at Kamuzu Central Hospital, in Malawi, has been found with the Corona virus. I believe my country has registered Corona virus cases only that the government and health workers are hiding the information. I believe that my country has a case of COVID-19, the only reason why we haven’t registered any is because we do not have the capacity to detect one. Supermarkets have stopped stocking goods, we shall runout of basic needs. Please rush to your nearest supermarket to buy all that you can whilst you have the opportunity. Did you know that COVID-19 is airborne? There is no running away from this thing.

These are some of the claims that have been made on online and offline. Misinformation and fake news is among the biggest challenge in the fight against COVID now. Misinformation and fake news has the potential to create panic, fear, and anxiety. Misinformation and fake news also has the potential to paralyse people.

Apart from misinformation and fake news, we have an alarm narrative that the mainstream media seems to have adopted. If you tune in to the news, be it BBC, CNN, or Aljazeera, what you see are reports that focus on the number of new cases daily, and the number of deaths. In addition, the media houses, are focusing on areas that have registered the highest numbers of new cases and deaths. The cases of people who have recovered are not given the same level of coverage.  Economically, the conversation is around how COVID-19 is negatively affecting the economy.

I understand that ‘Bad news’ is good news in the media, however, the psychological effects of the ‘bad news’ needs to also be weighed. Does the alarm narrative lead to positive behavior and/or mental state?  I argue that the peddling of the alarm narrative also has the  potential to create panic, fear, and anxiety. This also has the potential to paralyse a person.

Let’s look at some of the facts that we have as of 25th March,2020. According to the World Health Organisation, the COVID-19 outbreak situation is as follows: 375,498 confirmed cases, 16,362 confirmed deaths in 196 countries, area or territories with cases. The global population is at 7.8 Billion. A simple mathematics should tell you that this is 0.004% of the global population are the confirmed cases. Knowing that 99.996% of the global population hasn’t been confirmed with the virus gives hope. It changes the perspective from every person that I meet has the virus, to the potential of a smaller population having the virus. Does this mean, you don’t have to take precautionary measures? Absolutely not. However, it means that you now have the confidence that taking precautionary measures should help. A recent example is China, that seems to have made some progress by taking some strict precautionary measures.

Malawi has 0 confirmed cases of COVID-19. This is good news. The neighboring countries, United Republic of Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia have registered 12 confirmed cases, 1 confirmed case, and 3 confirmed cases respectively. South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia are the usual connecting routes and travel destinations for those using air transport. South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia have registered 402 cases, 16 cases , and 11 cases respectively.

This alone, shows that despite Malawi being without a confirmed COVID-19 case, there are chances that the virus might get into Malawi through migration. It is therefore important that we strengthen our immigration system. On 21 March,2020, the Nation newspaper carried an article where

 

the court ordered the Department of Immigration to allow entry of four Chinese nationals. The court also ordered that the four be remove from quarantine.  According to the World Health Organization, China has 81767 confirmed cases. The travelers passed through Ethiopia, Kenya or South Africa, which I have argued have recorded cases. Allowing these nationals into the country and suspending the quarantine which is key in the fight against the COVID-19 provides room for the virus to get into Malawi.

Despite these loopholes, as citizens we can take the World Health Organisation basic protective measures against the new coronavirus. Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority. Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

For those people who have in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading

  • Follow the guidance outlined above.
  • Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.
  • If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers.

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