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Fake news and the coronavirus in Nigeria

21 March 2020

The coronavirus has caused panic in Nigeria. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media throw up fake cures such as mixing garlic and honey, consuming cow urine and many more. And it does not stop there, says Zaharadden Ubale, a social media activist in Nigeria.

“People said you can kill the coronavirus with chloroquine. In another places they said coronavirus cannot withstand the temperature we have in our locality. That’s also fake news.”

Fear mongering has even caused locals to run away from foreign-looking people. There is also anxiety about Nigeria’s close ties to China. This does not mean, however, that Nigeria should stop doing business with China, according to epidemiologist Dr. Yerma Ahmad Adamu.

“You can not say because it started in China that now you run away from Chinese businesses. It has entered Europe and almost all other areas in the world,” he said.

But can staying in one place be a solution? In Nigeria, public health expert A’isha Muhammad Yayajo thinks it can slow the spread.

“You shouldn’t travel to places that have infection cases. This coronavirus spreads through person-to-person contact.

Some believe the ebola outbreak has prepared Africa. After all, isolation facilities and expertise in controlling infectious diseases still exist. But Dr. Adamu doubts this will help fight coronavirus: “The treatment for ebola is different. It does not guarantee our healthcare system is prepared for such infections.”   

So far no geographical, cultural or national boundaries has been too much for the coronavirus. Quite where the pandemic will leave Africa health wise and economically is anyone’s guess. But health experts agree on one thing: spreading fake news helps nothing.

A version of this report appeared on DW, the German public service broadcaster.

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