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Govt doctor takes WhatsApp video route to fight Covid misinformation

Dr Vimal Vir, the Covid nodal officer at Community Health Centre, Mianwind, says that he started the counter campaign against the rumour mill as his team too faced a hostile situation at village Jahangir where a local farmer union started a dharna against them.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar |
September 3, 2020 9:16:00 am
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Amid circulation of several social-media rumours, including alleged organ harvesting of coronavirus patients and health staff declaring people positive for infection for money, a Covid-19 nodal officer from Mianwind in Tarn Taran has started creating videos to dispel the misinformation on the ground.

Dr Vimal Vir, the Covid nodal officer at Community Health Centre, Mianwind, says that he started the counter campaign against the rumour mill as his team too faced a hostile situation at village Jahangir where a local farmer union started a dharna against them. The team was prevented from collecting samples for testing on Monday.

In the videos, Vir answers questions as a medical expert which are posed by Block Extension Educator Sourav Sharma, who also operates the mobile camera.

“People have started believing whatever they are getting on WhatsApp. I am a local doctor and villagers know me. So we have been making these videos. I tell people that not all the patients would be taken to the hospital even if they test positive,” said Vir.

He added, “We are telling people that it’s not must to go to hospital if they can follow the protocol at home. We will take only those to hospitals who are serious and cannot be treated at home.”

Speaking about the rumours they are up against, Sharma said: “Some people are saying that health department gets Rs 3 lakh for every positive patient from Centre and this is why many patients are testing positive. There is another rumour about Covid-19 patients being killed so that their organs could be harvested. Also there is a rumour that Covid-19 itself is a big conspiracy.”

A few incidents took place in the past few days in Sangrur, Moga and other areas, where villagers resisted the entry of health teams for collecting samples. Some villages in Sangrur and Moga even passed resolutions declaring that they would not send anyone to government hospitals after the person tests positive and the patient will be isolated at home or a common place at the village.

In a written statement recently, farmer union leaders Satnam Singh and Sawarn Singh Pandher of the Kisan Sangarsh Committee said, “WHO is a capitalistic organisation and they have an agenda for which fake crisis has been created….We will oppose health department teams peacefully when they would come to villages. We will protest against such visits and they will have to go back as there is no truth in news about lakhs of people getting infected with Covid-19.”

About the dharna that was staged against Vir’s team, farmer leader Haqam Singh said: “We staged the dharna because they had come to forcefully collect the samples.”

Punjab Health Systems Corporation chief Amardeep Singh Cheema said that it was unfortunate that people were getting swayed by such misinformation. “There is frustration among poor. Many people are not getting daily work. So people are angry…At the same time, there are some people who are spreading misinformation. We have asked DCs and SSPs to so counselling of such local leaders. Otherwise we would take strict action,” he added.

Mohali civil surgeon Manjit Singh agrees. He said some “anti-social elements” were trying to mislead people by spreading rumours and false information.

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