The coronavirus outbreak still continues to take the world by its knees as numbers of confirmed cases even in Kenya keeps increasing every day. While the country once stood at zero infected patients, we now are at over 100 cases and even worse, three deaths. And yes, halting the spread just like everyone else, ultimately depends on every individual. Taking up the right measures like hygiene standards and making sure to self-isolate as much as possible is what has proven to be the best option to beat this thing as of now.
Unfortunately, one thorn that can’t seem to stop pricking is the vast amounts of misinformation spreading across the country. It’s also happening everywhere else in the world and it’s clear everyone just wants someone to blame all this on. While some blame 5G technology that’s not yet even been fully explored, others go further to blame the Chinese people. But it is clear none of them has the right facts.
You cannot spend a whole day on WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter without bumping into a new video telling you this or that about the pandemic. Kenya’s cyberspace is currently riddled with such daily posts and yes, people are still consuming and falling for them.
This is even despite the government making it clear that anyone found spreading fallacy anywhere risks a KES 5million fine and/or imprisonment.
One of the few cases found was Elijah Muthui Kitonyo from Mwingi who was arrested by the DCI late last month. This was after he was found publishing misleading and alarming info about the coronavirus, as reported by Daily Nation. But as much as he’s one of them, logging into any of the platforms will surely give you a sense of what we’re still up against.
Thought provoking: Coronavirus Contains "HIV Insertions", Stoking Fears Over Artificially Created Bioweapon | Zero Hedge https://t.co/hBqfYkJ8XV
— Eliud Mungai (@elmoonguy) February 1, 2020
It is posts like this that continue to spread fear. Thousands still continue to believe that coronavirus was a scheme by international governments to try and control their population. And as many seek details about the pandemic’s origin, speculations about it never lack.
A conspiracy theory had recently surfaced claiming that a passage from a 1981 book The Eyes Of Darkness had predicted the current outbreak. Pictures of the passage went viral in the country, even prompting mainstream media to fact-check it only to find totally out of context.
But what is surely disturbing is the over-reliance on faith. While we believe that there is the right to faith it is surely misleading to convince anyone to not follow any of the guidelines from the WHO and the government and then expect to not be infected.
At the earlier stages, many were still also convinced that the virus would not stay long in Kenya. This is mainly due to the unconfirmed narrative that had been going around of the virus not being able to survive under high temperatures. Well, it is certain by now that it has survived and is here to stay unless dire measures are taken.
Websites have even been a part of the fake news. A good instance would be ab-tc.com that recently published a story about JKUAT students discovering a vaccine for the coronavirus. But shortly after fact-checking, the story was taken down as it was outrightly false.
Misinformation promises answers and explanations that Kenyans desperately want, but can’t find through normal, factual means. The public will look for alternative sources of information when there is a deficiency in their regular ones.
It is clear by now, social media is a huge source of information for many Kenyans and that is not likely to change. A part of the blame can be placed on the platforms that don’t really seem to live up to the promises of being vigilant against posts that are misleading and may cause panic. Either way, it comes down to every individual and the kind of information you choose to consume and believe in.