The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued an advisory to address social stigma associated with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and therefore, curb the prejudices against people and communities, social isolation and stigma in wake of the public health emergency. It also comes down heavily on false news reports and advises the sharing of only authentic material available on government websites.
Do not label any community or area for spread of COVID-19, the Ministry said.
"Public health emergencies during outbreak of communicable diseases may cause fear and anxiety leading to prejudices against people and communities, social isolation and stigma. Such behavior may culminate into increased hostility, chaos and unnecessary social disruptions."
The advisory comes at the heels of news reports maligning minority communities for the spread of the virus in the country. A communal aspect was attached to a gathering convened from March 13 to March 15, 2020 by the organization Tablighi Jamaat which allegedly forms 1/3rd of the reported COVID-19 cases in India.
Additionally, multiple cases, videos and reports have surfaced wherein "people affected with COVID-19 as well as healthcare workers, sanitary workers and police, who are in the frontline for management of the outbreak, facing discrimination on account of heightened fear and misinformation about the infection". It is further stated that certain communities and areas are being labeled on the basis of false reports in social media and elsewhere.
"There is an urgent need to counter such prejudices and to rise as a community that is empowered with health literacy and responds appropriately in the face of this adversity".
In order to counter such discrimination, "all responsible citizens" have been advised to protect themselves by practicing social distancing and washing their hands regularly. It is further noted that if anybody does catch the infection, it is not their fault and one must remember that the condition is curable and most people recover from it. In such times of distress, the patient and the family need support and cooperation.
The advisory also noted all healthcare workers have been rendering their services tirelessly to provide care and medical/clinical support in this situation of crisis and that they deserve our support, praise and appreciation. Therefore, "targeting essential service providers and their families will weaken our fight against COVID-19 and can prove grievously detrimental for the entire nation".
There are certain Do's and Don'ts which have been provided in the advisory:
• Appreciate efforts of people providing essential services and be supportive towards them and their families.
• Share only the authentic information available on the website of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India or the World Health Organisation.
• Cross check any information related to CoVID-19 from reliable sources before forwarding any messages on social media.
• Share positive stories of those who have recovered from COVID-19.
• Never spread names or identity of those affected or under quarantine or their locality on the social media.
• Avoid spreading fear and panic.
• Do not target healthcare and sanitary workers or police. They are there to help you.
• Do not label any community or area for spread of COVID-19.
• Avoid addressing those under treatment as COVID victims. Address them as ''people recovering from COVID"
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