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Why having fake coronavirus info is unhealthy

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Having ministers shooting from their hips is the last thing we want, says Mustafa K Anuar.

At a time when the coronavirus is spreading tenaciously, Malaysians generally have been exposed to some fake or misleading information, especially on social media.

In particular, questionable remedies for the deadly virus have been offered to the unsuspecting, ranging from drinking cow’s urine, taking herbal concoctions, consuming garlic to bathing in hot water.

This is apart from unverified stories, which have gone viral, of individuals dying, or spreading the virus in certain parts of the country.

While most Malaysians may not be gullible enough to take some of the suggested remedies in their stride, there are nonetheless a few who may be tempted to try them out, given the anxiety, deep fear and concern that overwhelms them.

It is also because the vaccine to fight this virus has yet to be discovered, hence, the knee-jerk reaction among the few.

For the time being, the rule of thumb should be for us to seek and adhere to advice and precautions prescribed by the authorities and experts in the field.

And it is in this context that the “advice” given recently by Health Minister Dr Adham Baba on RTM’s Bicara Naratif programme on how to overcome the virus becomes very jarring, nay, perilous.

Adham told the TV audience to sip warm water in order to flush the lethal virus out of our body system. The virus, he claims, cannot withstand high temperatures.

As if not to be upstaged by the health minister, comedian Jason Leong, who is also a medical doctor, sprang into action to debunk what he considers the myth of warm water being the panacea for the vicious coronavirus.

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Leong was not alone. Brickbats also came from several people, including former Bersih chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan and former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye.

The World Health Organization has also debunked the idea that drinking water can prevent infection.

Even health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah subsequently distanced himself from Adham’s assertion, saying the ministry’s approach to treating patients is based on science and data.

The American parallel to this episode is when US health experts had to clarify (read: contradict) the outlandish claims made by President Donald Trump, particularly regarding a certain available drug that could serve as a vaccine for the virus.

It is instructive and crucial that Noor Hisham stood his ground to avoid unnecessary confusion among Malaysians, particularly those who have been inflicted by, and are paranoid about, the virus. As it is, there has already been enough confusion pertaining to the execution of the movement control order.

Having more ministers shooting from their hips is the last thing we want, especially when the number of infection cases and deaths is rising and worse, there is still a group of people who take the scourge and movement control lightly.

It is noteworthy that medical frontliners are already grappling with the surge of patients, including a few of their own who were infected by people who didn’t take seriously and weren’t truthful about their recent contact history.

Mind you, the warm water remedy came from the health minister, no less a medical doctor himself, whose statement was predictably taken seriously as authoritative by segments of the society.

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Noor Hisham’s action also signals the importance of professionals in the civil service providing sound advice to ministers, some of whom obviously need expert and proper guidance pertaining to their respective portfolios.

Faced with the ferocity of these microbes and their insidious modus operandi, the nation cannot afford to have a leadership that is not able to craft good strategies to fight in this war against the lethal virus.

A slip-up is not an option.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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