Following the local circulation of WhatsApp messages that led to episodes of panic shopping on Monday, Health Minister Carvin Malone is warning residents against the dangers of ‘fake news’.
The messages that were circulated warned persons of a impending territory-wide lockdown that was based on unofficial reports that more COVID-19 cases had been detected in the BVI.
One of the messages read: “Just got word … lockdown is coming … Governor wants 28 days, government wants 14 … The dispute is the delay.”
The message further urged residents to “stock up” before government makes the announcement.
In a late-night COVID-19 update to the nation several hours after those rumours were sent, Malone encouraged residents to only take such announcements as gospel if it comes from an original government source.
“Seek information updates at regular intervals from official sources such as the government’s website www.bvi.gov.vg/covid-19 or other regional and international public health authorities. Get the facts, and avoid rumours and misinformation,” the minister said.
He added: “The increasing volume of ‘fake news’, false reports, conspiracy theories and other outlandish claims being circulated is not only distracting but increasingly dangerous to public health as they may discourage vulnerable individuals from potentially life-saving measures.”
Governor’s Office denounced rumour
In an earlier social media publication, the Office of the Governor had denounced the rumour which alleged that Governor Augustus Jaspert was lobbying for a one-month territory-wide lockdown.
Back in July, Premier Andrew Fahie had also issued a stern warning to perpetrators behind the publishing of what he termed to be ‘fake news’.
He said circulating false reports has legal consequences through the recently-implemented Cybercrime Computer Misuse & Cybercrime (Amendment) Act of 2019, which can be enforced once persons are apprehended.
Fahie, therefore, asked the public to be mindful with their social media postings as electronic defamation has serious implications.
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