By M. KRISHNAMOORTY
We all have our “ah-ha” moments in life. It’s “eureka” when scientists make a discovery. For journalists, what “wows” makes the news.
As Covid-19 continues to spread there has been bizarre news, home remedies and fake news.
The most bizarre advice to protect oneself from the virus has come from a minister in Pakistan. On Monday (April 20), a video shared on social media shows Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan sharing some protection “tips” during a press conference. She urges people to cover their legs, believing that the coronavirus can enter the body “neeche se” (from below).
The minister’s bizarre advisory to protect oneself so that the virus does not enter “from below” has been going viral on the Internet.
On social media, misinformation on Covid-19 has exploded in the past few weeks.
In Malaysia, women were told to avoid sarcasm and to speak in the voice of a cartoon cat (Doraemon) so they did not annoy their husbands during the Movement Control Order or lockdown, which was introduced on March 18 and was to last till March 31. The lockdown was later extended to April 14 and then to April 28.
Official advisories from the country’s women’s ministry told women to make sure they wore make-up at home, and to avoid loose and casual clothes.
The bizarre advice was posted on the Facebook and Twitter pages of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Health Minister, Dr Adham Baba, claimed that drinking warm water can help to prevent Covid-19 infection. His controversial comments were seen by Malaysians via a video of his appearance on a television programme on March 19.
The Health Minister was said to have recommended that Malaysians ensure their mouths and throats are always moist, as this will help to wash the virus down the oesophagus so that it can be killed by stomach acid.
This news went live on mainstream and social media. Malaysian lawyer and social activist Syedredzan Johan tweeted: “If this is correct, I think this is a real-life hack that everyone should know.”
Here’s a video that I screencapped 😅 pic.twitter.com/rYOhe9bx8k
— queen of disaster (@frrhanuar) March 20, 2020
Adding to the deluge of misinformation, people are also sharing bizarre safety and protection tips.
One of the most bizarre “treatment” recommendations came from the president of the All India Hindu Mahasabha. Swami Chakrapani Maharaj said cow urine and cow dung can be used for treating Covid-19. On the other hand, the Dalai Lama advised his followers to chant the Tara Mantra to protect themselves from the virus, according to a post on the Central Tibetan Administration website.
Malaysian politicians also spotted flouting government restrictions on social gatherings and travel are facing a backlash from an angry public accusing them of double standards.
Recently, Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali caused an uproar on social media after posting a photograph of himself and another elected representative sharing a meal with about 30 students. Users immediately questioned why he was breaching the nation’s lockdown, which prohibits gatherings and social visits. Mr Noor Azmi removed the picture and apologised.
Another Deputy Minister (for Rural Development), Mr Abdul Rahman Mohamad, was spotted breaching social distancing rules by having an impromptu birthday party. He defended the gathering by saying a group of people had turned up at his house as a surprise and he “didn’t want to chase them away”.
Other politicians who have breached the lockdown rules include the Mentri Besar (chief minister) of the state of Terengganu, who was required to give a statement to police after visiting a volunteer food distribution centre.
Economic Affairs Minister Mustapa Mohamed tweeted about returning to his constituency in another state to visit people, then deleted the tweet after being roundly criticised. Inter-state travel, unless for emergencies, is prohibited under the lockdown.
M KRISHNAMOORTHY is a freelance journalist and associate professor in journalism. He is also a certified coach in Crisis Communications. As a journalist, he has highlighted society’s concerns and has gone undercover as a beggar, security guard, blind man, handicapped, salesman and as a Member of Parliament in The Star, Malaysia’s leading English daily newspaper. He also freelances as a fixer/coordinator for CNN, BBC, German and Australian TV networks and the New York Times. He graduated in communications in 1983 from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.