EDITORIAL | Stop surfing the wave of virus misinformation

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EDITORIAL | Stop surfing the wave of virus misinformation

Trust those on the front line of the Covid-19 war for information, and don’t be part of the problem

Editorial
If you, a medical aid member, had mild symptoms of coronavirus and a baby, with no medical aid, needed a ventilator, would you create a fuss about the child receiving medical attention in a private facility before you did?
don't be that person If you, a medical aid member, had mild symptoms of coronavirus and a baby, with no medical aid, needed a ventilator, would you create a fuss about the child receiving medical attention in a private facility before you did?
Image: China Daily via Reuters

As Covid-19 spreads, so spread the rumours, fake news and conspiracy theories. It’s all the media’s fault. It’s the media creating the hype. Or it’s Bill Gates and his shares in that Wuhan laboratory in China that are behind all of this. It’s a moneymaking racket! And the World Health Organisation (WHO) cannot be trusted. Covid-19 is not even as bad as a normal flu. 

As we head towards a peak in infections, so the conspiracy theorists (alongside the anti-vaxxers, or perhaps they are all part of the same gang) viciously surge ahead on their own wave of misinformation.

How does one make sense of it all? How does one distinguish between what’s real and what’s not? Go to the front lines and see for yourself. Not doable? Second-best: speak to those you trust, who can bring you tales from the front lines. Let the media play that role for you. That is what Times Select does today. Emergency-room doctor Adam Barnes shares his account of what is happening in our hospitals and with our people who have contracted the virus.

The picture he sketches belies all the talk that this is not as bad as “the media” (because we are all one publication?) makes it out to be. He talks of how he chose to give a private hospital bed to a patient with no medical aid. This was much to the ire of the family of another Covid-19-infected person who presented with mild symptoms, but had a medical aid. 

The point he was trying to make was this: “There are no beds.”

“Of the nine possible government hospitals that have the ability to manage a ventilated patient, none of them had space ... That patient then qualified to be ventilated in a private ICU because, as much as people may vilify organisations or people who make money from health care, we are still driven by our need to help people.”

Dr Barnes (who was called a disgrace and threatened with litigation for his choice) said even he had been confronted with people telling him it’s not true that there are no beds. He works in emergency rooms, but gets told by others what the real situation is. “That’s not accurate, I work in a hospital where we’ve got only 20% capacity,” he was told. But he explains that the problem is ICUs are full. “So if you need hospitalisation for a respiratory problem, you can’t get it at the moment,” said Barnes.

Sadly, he said his message to the brother of the medical aid patient with mild symptoms did not come across. “My words didn’t make it past the visor I was wearing.”

Don’t be that person. Be the person who seeks and spreads the truth and helps our world make sense of one of the most complicated eras of our time.