L-R: Temilade, Mayowa and Timileyin
By Sheriff Badmus
As coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, nearly all countries are busy adjusting to the scare. However, the narratives are starting to change. Italy overtook China in a space of 7 days to record most deaths resulting from coronavirus infection; with 108,628 additional cases and 4918 deaths in the same period.
According to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, since 31 December 2019 and as of 20 March 2020, 242488 cases of COVID-19 have been reported; including 9885 deaths. The most deaths have been reported from Italy (3407), China (3254), and Iran (1284).
Expressing alarm and dissatisfaction about increasing infections, the World Health Organization (WHO), declared that the global coronavirus is a pandemic.
In response to the pandemic, elite nations like Italy, France and Germany have turned to playing their major football leagues behind closed doors. Since tourism is expected to decline sharply, reports have shown that major airlines are being forced to cut down their operations. If the coronavirus continues to spread, the impact could be significantly worse and there is likelihood of another global economic crisis.
As at the time of writing this piece, Africa has recorded a total number of 733 cases and 17 deaths have been reported; with Egypt taking the lead with 210 cases and 6 deaths; South Africa 150, no death; and Algeria with 82 and 7 deaths.
According to experts, misinformation is spreading faster than the virus. AFP Factcheck has so far checked 114 claims for misinformation, rumors and unverified claims. Among such false news is a WhatsApp voice message circulating in Nigeria with claims that anti-malaria drug chloroquine phosphate is a cure for COVID-19.
While fake news is a global problem, it seems more serious in Nigeria where false information on social media can quickly end up on legitimate news websites.
In a joint report published by the WHO on coronavirus, the major recommendations for countries with imported cases and/or outbreaks of COVID-19 are to “immediately activate the highest level of national response management protocols, to prioritise active, exhaustive case finding and immediate testing and isolation, painstaking contact tracing and rigorous quarantine of close contacts; to fully educate the general public on the seriousness of COVID-19 and their role in preventing its spread, to test patients who display symptoms of respiratory illnesses and to deploy stringent measures to interrupt transmission chains.”
The Good Nigerians
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu is the Director-general for Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Born to a Nigerian father and German mother, Dr Ihekweazu trained as an infectious disease epidemiologist and has over 20 years’ experience working in senior public health and leadership positions in several National Public Health Institutes, including the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the UK’s Health Protection Agency, and Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
Having contained Ebola Virus outbreak and Lassa fever, the NCDC through Dr. Ihekweazu assured the public that “We’ve been preparing for this literally as soon as the outbreak broke.” Since then NCDC has established a micro site, been updating citizens with vital information on social media about the epidemic and providing vital responses to contain it.
Following his Centre’s advice that Nigerians who have recently traveled to countries hit by the virus should stay home for 14 days, even if they don’t have any symptoms, Dr Ihekweazu worked in self-isolation after returning from China in a mission to learn about the virus.
David Temilade has been busy debunking false claims. She is a researcher and the Programme Assistant for Dubawa, Nigeria – a fact checking project initiated by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ). The Website has so far checked more than 15 claims.
Temi’s take on fake news and its peddlers is captured thus:
“First, they attribute their claims to credible sources but with no proofs.
“Secondly, their headlines are always sensational; because their main aim is to call attention and drive traffic to their site in the process misleading the public. They usually would not have genuine evidence to back up their claims and often times they lack contents.”
“In respect to this trend, the best thing to do is for the sources to issue disclaimers. And readers should be careful of the kind of information they consume before sharing: this way there will be limit. When any information is gotten, and you feel it’s too good to be true, then it is”.
Olumayowa Tijani works for AFP Fact Check, an international organisation that employs digital verification specialists around the world to monitor online contents in local languages. AFP has so far checked 146 claims attached to the novel coronavirus as it emerges across the globe. Having previously featured on The Transverse, Mayowa has contributed extensively to the war against fake news attached to COVID-19,
Talking about curbing face news, Mayowa said:
“At this time, the world is looking for a solution, so anything that suggests a solution is easily taken.
“People tend to believe it. People are wired to want the best and believe the best, especially in a situation they can’t control. So that’s been driving force.
“We can tackle the misinformation by looking for alternative sources of hope; reporting the best news about coronavirus around the world; and giving as much information as possible on all existing cases.”
Timileyin Omilana is a Nigerian fact-check journalist with The Guardian Nigeria and has been engaging his pen and twitter handle to battle fake news about coronavirus
What motivates Timi is succinctly captured below:
“As a fact checker with The Guardian Nigeria and because of how delicate the global crisis is – relating to health, it became imperative to take a stand against fake news and misinformation around the coronavirus. And based on the background of misinformation of Ebola cure in 2014 that led to the death of two after consuming excessive salt, myself and my colleagues made it a point of duty.”
How Nigerians should combat coronavirus
We all need to be true to ourselves. If anyone has recently returned from any of the affected countries, such persons should isolate themselves.
Also, Nigerians need to adhere to the advice of medical experts. When anyone shows symptoms such as coughing, constant sneezing and fever such person should go visit the nearest government hospital for test. Test is free.
We have nothing to fear about even though there isn’t cure yet. Many people who were tested positive have recovered. Coronavirus is not a death sentence