Today the world is faced with a pandemic. COVID-19, caused by the novel Coronavirus is now present in the majority of countries and has infected at least 1 million people (and conceivably many more).
In an age of a 24-hour news cycle and widespread social media, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction – this is the time to listen to science.
During a worldwide crisis, it is extremely important to understand what are reliable sources of information. Popular media is inundated with false claims of both causes and cures.
In addition to poor quality or unsubstantiated science, politically motivated denial is widespread. In the Americas, populist leaders such as Trump (USA), Bolsonaero (Brazil) and Obrador (Mexico) have all downplayed the severity of the virus. The USA has now become a COVID epicenter and this will likely happen as well in Mexico and Brazil.
Devastated Italy and Spain were both slow to react to the warnings and thousands have already died from the disease. Conversely Hong Kong and Taiwan – two jurisdictions located much closer to the outbreak – responded almost immediately to evidence coming out of China, even before the warnings of the World Health Organization (WHO). Both places have been able to mitigate the worst effects of this disease. Hong Kong was particularly prepared for a pandemic after learning the effects of the SARS outbreak 17 years ago.
This is a time to listen to real science. During times of crisis, charlatans will offer quick cures to make easy money. With such an abundance of misinformation available, people who are already suspicious of science will find it easy to justify false causes and cures, which is quite clear in the anti-vaccination community.
This group has now attached themselves to the next false-science argument trying to blame the spread of the virus on 5G cellular networks! Incidentally, aside from any concrete scientific evidence, this ‘theory’ appears to mix bacteria with viruses – obviously nothing based in real scientific understanding or evidence.
Politics must also be separated from science. Media outlets such as Murdoch-owned Fox News in the United States appears much more motivated to support the current president and a specific ideology rather than helping viewers to understand the evidence. The scariest part of all of this is that people around the world will not take precautions, which not only puts them but also other people at risk, which allows this coronavirus to spread out of control. This is why it is necessary to listen to the facts.
News sources around the world like the World Health Organization and Health Canada present factual evidence for the public. It is vital to listen to genuine information to not get caught up in all of the conspiracy theories and misinformation traveling the globe.
It may be hard to be certain if something is truthful as some governments are disseminating misinformation. A useful strategy to know if you are being told the truth is to understand the source behind the information. Broadcasting that is most likely to be factual would either come from an expert team or from qualified health professionals. This is why the WHO is important on a global scale. Within the Canadian provinces, listen to the provincial chief medical officer, in Alberta Dr, Hinshaw provides daily updates as does her national counterpart Dr. Tam.
In conclusion, to quote famous Astro-Physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “Will people listen to science?” This is an evolving situation but the response must be lead by science and by fact. Not quackery or political agendas.