Amid global concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, the Bangladesh government has decided to adopt a tough stance against people spreading rumours about coronavirus on social media.
“No rumours around coronavirus will be tolerated any more,” warned Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque on Wednesday.
“A vested quarter is trying to spread rumours over the deadly coronavirus in the country by posting fake news or posts on different social media platforms. The posts warn people against consuming chicken and tells them to use facial masks around people who have recently returned home from abroad or they will catch the deadly virus, ” he told reporters while visiting a newly-constructed building of the Directorate General of Nursing and Midwifery (DGNM) in the city’s Mohakhali area.
Stating that the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) was providing updates and suggestions regularly on coronavirus, Maleque said : “People should not pay heed to any rumours surrounding the news of the virus and must follow the DGHS’s suggestions to prevent the deadly virus.”
Bangladesh has so far screened 220,553 incoming passengers at land, sea, and airports across the country. None of them were found infected with the COVID-19 virus.
“A total of 72 suspected people, who returned home recently from abroad, were examined but no one was found virus-infected. In any case, if anyone is found infected with coronavirus, the health sector is fully prepared to deal with the situation by providing treatment for him or her,” he added.
“As part of contingency measures, the authorities in Bangladesh are medically screening all passengers at the ports and especially those with suspected coronavirus symptoms, such as fever, sneezing and cough. However, no positive cases of the infection have been detected in Bangladesh,” IEDCR Director Prof Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora has said.
“Rumours spread on social media are rising alarmingly. We are analyzing different media reports to prevent and control the rumours. We have prepared a batch of suggestions for people so that they are not misled by all the baseless rumours,” Flora said yesterday while briefing reporters on the latest coronavirus situation.
She asked people to directly contact the IEDCR hotline for any queries on coronavirus.
The hotline numbers are: 01927711784, 01927711785, 01937000011, and 01937110011.
Earlier on February 14, officials at Dhaka Metropolitan Police said that they had decided to take action under the Digital Security Act against people circulating fake news through social media or online news portals about coronavirus.
“Being over-enthusiastic, many people are sharing fake news reports and posts in this regard on social media sites. Those who are spreading rumours on coronavirus will be brought under the Digital Security Act,” said Nazmul Islam, additional deputy commissioner of Cyber Security and Crime Division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) recently.
Earlier on February 12, a mother died of a heart attack in Satkhira’s Shyamnagar Upazila following rumours that her son had been infected with coronavirus and that he could therefore be shot to death by law enforcers.