Already burdened with the task of tackling the COVID-19 outbreak, the Himachal government is facing the additional task of clamping down on rumour-mongers.
On Thursday evening, a fake order, purportedly issued by the “additional chief secretary” to the Himachal Pradesh government, giving directions to impose Section 144 of the CRPC in five districts and other restrictions across the state, was widely circulated on social media. The ‘order’, which bore an official-looking serial number and format, also said that all state borders have been “sealed”.
Fake news and messages such as this one are keeping the government authorities on their toes. “Discerning an authentic statement from a fabricated one becomes difficult for the public, who are already anxious about the outbreak. Yesterday, a document giving details of people in the state who had returned from high-risk countries was being circulated. It said that a Mandi resident had tested positive for COVID-19 and even gave the passengers’ contact and flight details. I later learnt it was fake,” said Dhruv Chowfla, a resident of Chamba.
Shimla DC Amit Kashyap has requested residents to only trust official sources for information. “Some people spread a rumour about an impending closure of market places and a lockdown in Shimla. We’re trying to trace them and action will be taken against them as per law. There is a sufficient stock of essential commodities in the district, and any official restriction/measure will be taken only after making requisite arrangements for the well-being of the residents,” he said.
On Saturday, district health officials in Chamba conducted a mock-drill at the local hospital to strengthen preparedness for the outbreak. However, a rumour of a positive case at the hospital soon spread and the chief medical officer was forced to issue a statement denying the same.State cyber crime police station in-charge Narveer Rathore said police have written to Whatsapp seeking the origin of the fake government order which was circulated on Thursday. In Palampur, police have registered an FIR against two people after they uploaded a post on Facebook falsely claiming that an Army officer from Kerala had tested positive for the virus. They were booked for defamation and public nuisance, police said.
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