It was robustly announced that an Italian suspected to be a carrier of the dreaded Coronavirus had been quarantined. The Lagos State Government, through its Commissioner for Health and Deputy Governor, came out responsibly to break the news to Nigerians, stating very clearly all the steps taken including tracking all those that may have come in contact with the person in its bid to isolate them and put them under quarantine.
This news immediately threw Nigerians into their usual frenzy. Rumours, stories and outright fables now became the order of the day. Institutions that they claimed the man stayed in or visited were named. Stories of him being on lockdown rented the air, disrupting activities and putting said institutions under pressure, impacting negatively on their businesses and brand.
The issue of fake news continues to be a lethargic fall out of the freedoms that social media has accorded us. And we in turn have handled this freedom with the highest level of irresponsibility. From outright falsehood, to releasing nudes of innocent and unsuspecting people to all sort of banal behaviour that today, social media is a cesspool of stupidity.
The government in frustration has tried to regulate and curb it. They have tried to pass the social media bill, all in a bid to sanitise the space, but with the ill- advised death penalty tied to it the bill is struggling.
Today, we have seen the danger of an unbridled access to mass media that social media affords with the advent of the Coronavirus. The deluge of innuendos and outright falsehood continue to drown the voice of reason. Government statement on the actual situation is carried away by the flood of fake news, while these falsehoods continue to hug the headlines.
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Today, the Italian has run away from mosquito, tomorrow the driver is asking for N100m. The other day, chloroquine can cure it and a mixture of ginger and garlic will give you immunity. Add that to claims that Chinese men have been quarantined in Zamfara and the virus does not affect the black man.
The need to self-regulate is very key and this takes us back to education. With such a large army of barely literate people having access to social media, we remain vulnerable. It’s like arming a drunk with a gun. People who cannot dissect facts from fiction now are in the arrow head of social commentary.
Why the panic? A disease whose mortality rate is an average 2% when Lassa fever and its cousins have been killing us here up until yesterday without the same frenzy. A country of 200m now faced with 1 positive non-Nigerian and 23 quarantined Nigerians and the country should go into a lock down, when malaria is killing thousands even in the same space?
This is utter madness driven by the illiteracy that is social media. At this point, I don’t even know who to turn to in seeking a solution to this malaise.
It is just sad.
By Joseph Edgar…
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