On Friday, pictures of a woman said to be infected with coronavirus circulated online. On Saturday, the woman came out to deny those claims stating that she was not infected. She claimed she had traveled into the country recently but she was not unwell as it was being portrayed. It turns out hers was not only a case of wrong identity but shows that most Kenyans trust unverified information. These events show the dangerous levels of misinformation.
Lack of information can only lead to misinformation which almost, always does not produce desired results. With freedom of speech, ‘experts’ have emerged from every corner with alarmist news designed to create trepidation.
With the first case of Covid-19 reported in Kenya, speculation has been rife and now Kenyans have turned to suspicion. At a sneeze or a slight cough, one could be branded a coronavirus case; this should not be the case since various ailments can manifest this way. All this is happening regardless of the government’s efforts to inform Kenyans.
This is the time to stop fake news that will cause more damage including stigmatisation, xenophobia and segregation. A single source of communication will help Kenyans understand the situation as it is. Kenyans should trust that the government has their best interest at heart and allow it to inform the public on any emerging issues.
It is high time the public realises there is more harm than good in relying on and spreading fake and alarmist news. Actually, the law also criminalises such action and it is dangerous to imagine that at such a time the country will be treated to dangerous information that can only fuel panic.
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Coronavirus is not the first pandemic and there are clear guidelines that could help prevent infections and transmissions. If the public adheres to these, there should be no need to have worry and anxiety as currently is being witnessed. We also urge the government to make the flow of information timely and regular to stamp out crooks who may want to create fear and disorganisation.