Social media being ‘infected’ by fear and fake news

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 28 Jan 2020

PETALING JAYA: Authorities are battling a different “viral” problem of fear-mongering on social media over the novel coronavirus.

Health authorities in several states have had to come forward to debunk fake news on infections.

In Melaka, state health and anti-drug committee chairman Low Chee Leong said there were claims of infection involving a seven-year-old boy of Chinese nationality, but tested negative by Hospital Kuala Lumpur several days ago.

“We received a report of the boy seeking treatment at a private clinic in Ayer Keroh for fever on Jan 24 and the clinic wanted to refer the case to the Melaka Hospital.

“However, the boy’s family refused this and instead took him to Hospital Kuala Lumpur where he tested negative for the virus, ” he told Bernama.

In Penang, health authorities issued a statement denying reports that two Chinese nationals with the virus infection had entered Penang via Thailand.

In Seremban, Negri Sembilan health deputy director Dr Mohd Faid Rashid denied claims surfacing in WhatsApp that a suspected coronavirus patient was admitted to the Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital on Sunday.

In Terengganu, state health director Dr Nor Azimi Yunus denied a posting by “Ali Dapice” on the Gabungan Anak Terengganu (Original) Facebook claiming five people were admitted to Hospital Sultanah Nur Zahirah for coronavirus upon their return from Wuhan. Pahang health director Datuk Dr Bahari Muda Awang Ngah also denied a tweet claiming that the first coronavirus case was being treated at a private hospital in the state.

Meanwhile, the Kelantan Health Department has deployed four thermal scanners at the four main gateways at the Malaysia-Thailand border.

Its director Datuk Dr Zaini Hussin said the scanners were being used at the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport in Pengkalan Chepa and at the Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security complexes in Bukit Bunga in Tanah Merah, Rantau Panjang in Pasir Mas and Pengkalan Kubor in Tumpat.

He said that so far there had been no reported cases of suspected coronavirus infection in the state.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the police and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) were investigating four cases of fake news on the outbreak.

Amid the fears, an online poll to garner public support to persuade a government ban on the entry of Chinese nationals into Malaysia was launched on Saturday.

Although garnering over 375,000 votes, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has since responded by saying that there are no plans to block travellers from China into the country.

There were some comforting news as the Global Health Security (GHS) Index released last October ranked Malaysia third among Asian nations in terms of preparedness in the face of a disease outbreak.

Malaysia was placed 18th among 195 nations surveyed, and is considered “more prepared” to deal with a pandemic.

Among Asian countries, Malaysia is behind Thailand and South Korea but leads Japan, Singapore and Indonesia.

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