Coronavirus: Rumour-mongering emerges as concern

Coronavirus: Rumour-mongering emerges as concern

Protective masks are distributed outside a railway station in Mumbai. (Reuters photo)

Amid fears of further spread of COVID-19,  fears of fake messages, misinformation and rumours, black-marketing of masks and duplicate hand sanitizers is emerging as a big cause of concern. 

There were fake notifications,  false press notes,  confusing snippets floating around on social media platforms like WhatsApp,  Facebook and Twitter - over the last two days concerning COVID-19.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, his deputy and finance minister Ajit Pawar,  home minister Anil Deshmukh,  health minister Rajesh Tope and medical education minister Amit Deshmukh, food and drugs administration minister Rajendra Shingne during the series of meetings with officials has issued instructions for strict action. 

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Thackeray, in is daily news conferences, has appealed people not to get panic. While Deshmukh said, "We have decided to take strict action against those who are spreading fake news and false information."

Mumbai's municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi has written formally to police chief Param Bir Singh to take strict action against wrongdoers. He has asked for action under section 54 of the National Disaster Management Act, 2005.

On his part, Singh said: "Let’s stay calm and do the basics right. Maintain personal, office and home hygiene, avoid large gatherings and unnecessary travel. Keep fake news far & a doctor close. Be vigilant, don't panic  - and I am sure, we will overcome this adversity soon".

The section deals with "Punishment for the false warning" - and states - "Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to  disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic, shall on conviction, be punishable with  imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine."

Right from home remedies to avoiding chicken,  ice cream and soft-drinks,  smartphones are flooded with information. There is also information related to the cancellation of examination, creating problems among parents. Some of the fake news is attributed to government offices,  international bodies and doctors who do not exist.

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