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In Myanmar’s Rakhine State Mistrust Hampers COVID-19 Response

A man rides a motor scooter on a deserted street amid a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Rathedaung township, western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, in an undated photo-Photo Courtesy: RFA

The fight to contain a surge in coronavirus infections in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is being complicated by mistrust of government health guidelines that leads local villagers to reject masks and embrace conspiracy theories, relief workers and residents told RFA.

Rakhine’s surge in cases comes amid a 21-month war between Myanmar forces and the Arakan Army (AA) which has driven some 200,000 civilians into crowded makeshift camps that can be breeding grounds for infections.

To hamper AA communications, the government has restricted mobile internet access in northern townships for more than a year, making it hard to get news about COVID-19.

With cases in Rakhine now accounting for nearly half of the country’s 882 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday, relief workers say they are concerned that many locals are not heeding official health advice, while misinformation about the pandemic circulates.

“Even virus-infected people don’t believe they are infected,” said Zaw Zaw Tun,   secretary of the Rakhine Ethnics Congress, a local relief group, adding that the problem lies mainly with people living in rural areas.

“The health department informs them that they are infected, and then they call me and say that it’s not true because they don’t have any symptoms,” he said. “That’s why they are suspicious whenever something is wrong with the test results.”

Within the last few weeks, the Ministry of Health and Sports reported more than 300 new coronavirus cases, mostly in Rakhine state, which had registered no infections during the initial weeks of the pandemic earlier this year.

Despite the surge, many of Rakhine’s rural residents do not believe the outbreak is serious, with some being told that the current strain of coronavirus is a weaker version of the one that has infected other countries. Other residents believe the COVID-19 surge is only government-orchestrated propaganda to frighten ethnic Rakhine people who live in the strife-torn multiethnic state.

“As they are uneducated people, they don’t believe what the government announces about the viral infection and think that it is government-orchestrated propaganda to scare Rakhine residents,” Khin Maung Than, a resident of Myaung Bwe Chay village in Mrauk-U township, told RFA.

“Many of them hold the same belief,” he said.

Win Myint, Rakhine state spokesman and minister of municipal affairs, said people must not dismiss what the government says about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials efforts to curb infections have not been effective because people are not complying with directives, he said.

“I would like to tell people not to misinterpret what the government is doing. The virus is spreading in Rakhine state. It is true,” he said.

Won’t wear masks’

On Monday, Myanmar registered 882 confirmed COVID-19 cases, nearly half of which were in Rakhine. The total number of coronavirus-related fatalities in the country has remained unchanged at six since late April.

Than Tun of the Nanyeik Karuna Free Oxygen Aid Group in the ancient Rakhine capital of Mrauk-U said his NGO hands out free protective face masks and bottles of hand sanitizer to the public, but the supplies largely go unused.

“We give them masks today, but they won’t wear them tomorrow,” he told RFA. “We feel sad and angry [about it]. They can’t get into the market without a mask. They wear them before they enter the market, and then take them off once they are in.”

Fourteen people were confirmed COVID-19 positive in Mrauk-U as of Aug. 28, according to Myanmar’s Health Ministry, prompting authorities to lock down streets on which the infected people live. But other town residents complained about the lack of restrictions in other places with newly confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, more than 180 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, hit hard by a surge in domestically transmitted cases, and where more than 400 people are now quarantined.

To curb the spread of the virus, the Myanmar government placed Rakhine’s 3.2 million residents under a partial lockdown on Aug. 26, allowing only shops selling essential goods to remain open.

Two days later, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to send food supplies and provide financial support for the state, where COVID-19 restrictions and the ongoing armed conflict have cut off trade and transportation routes with neighboring areas.

Rakhine, which borders the Bay of Bengal and Bangladesh, is Myanmar’s poorest state, with a population mostly engaged in farming and fishing. The literacy rate for Rakhine state is 84.7 percent, compared to the national rate of 89.5 percent, according to 2018 government figures.

Reported by Waiyan Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Copyright © 1998-2020, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036. https://www.rfa.org

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India News Brief

21 October, 2020
India New COVID-19 Cases 54,044 and Deaths 717 in Last 24 Hours
COVID-19 Total Cases: 7,597,063  Deaths 115,197 
How to identify Fake News or Messeges on Social Media 

Beware of Fake News and Fake Messages on Social Media

Always follow websites or social media platforms of traditional media outlets whether newspapers, magazines,Television News Channels or Radio Stations and authentic online only media outlets.They still maintain journalism excellence and stress on reportorial talent.On the other hand, fake news websites run by people with non journalism background and promote their own ideology with fake news and disinformations and obviously conspiracy theories.

But unfortunately mainstream media also manipulates news to establish their story angle.There were various instances when News papers and TV Channels promoted fake news/conspiracy theories in the form of out of context or manipulated pictures/videos and distorted informations.

Always check the URL of any website.Some fake news websites look like the orginal and popular one the same layout,Logo but if you check the URL you may find extra words like if the orginal website's URL is www.xxx.com the duplicate one might be www.xxx.com.co or something like that so first check the URL for authentic informations.

Check whether photos are original or photoshopped.Check Google images for authenticity.You can find help from Google Reverse Images search.

Check the news sources from other websites whether they picked up the story or not.

Whether the website layout is little bit clumsy and obviously grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes and excessive use of Sex related and sensational and hate stories.Because sex and hate sells.

Follow official websites relating to COVID-19

WHO Clarifies the disinformation about the virus:
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
Cold Weather and Snow can not kill the new coronavirus
Taking a Hot Bath Does Not Prevent COVID-19
COVID-19 Can not be transmitted through mosquito bites

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth)

According to World Health Organization (WHO): Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth . If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.

If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition

Follow WHO guidelines

www.who.int

When you follow COVID-19 related news and messages from social media then check and recheck it before consuming it.Follow journalism mantra: if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Most of the messages or informations quote different organizations like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP,Cambridge University  or other well known institutes,organizations or individual to authenticate the messeges.Check official websites of these organizations  if stories are repeated there

Forwarding messages from unknown sources or little known sources, it would be better to ignore it.

Check whether any logo like UNICEF or WHO or other organizations used in the messages which look similar to original logo.

These type of messages are full of Grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes which are quite uncommon in original messages.

Don't rely on viral social media messages such as Coronavirus Infected Indian Currencies of Rs.500 and Rs.2,000 Notes Found, Muslim Man Spit in Food At Indian Restaurant.....Always Check Authentic Sources.

Some fake messages pretend to be real one like unofficial Twitter handle of international media organizations like BBC,CNN,Washinton Post, New York Times-check the official Twitter handles of media outlets.

You can identify fake messages if the message requests you to share it.

Beware of Fake News or Fake Photos/Videos Relating to Communal Hatred

Always check the fact checking sites if you have some doubts about the authenticity of any information or picture.

www.boomlive.in

www.altnews.in

https://check4spam.com

https://smhoaxslayer.com

www.factchecker.in

www.allsides.com

www.factcheck.org

www.newsbusters.org

www.politifact.com

www.snopes.com

www.propublica.org

The Same Method Applies to You Tube Videos Check the Source the credibility of the Source.To Check Fake You Tube Videos Check and Recheck the sources. Does the person have the legal right to the video posted? Did that person capture the video? Whether it has been altered?

But due to advancement of technology we can not really wipe out fake news.According to experts advent of  Artificial Intelligence(AI) some companies small or big one developing  technologies that can  lay digitally created script to anybody's voice  even words,sentences never said by the person.Even they a.re developing a technology which can create fake video footage,images,audios like originals.So be cautious! Rumour-mongers are active everywhere whether in physical world or cyber world.

For any further information relating to fake news and how-to search authentic informations from the internet write to us info@crimeandmoreworld.com or Whats App:+919073399779

COVID-19 Related Conspiracy Theories:
https://fsi.stanford.edu/news/china-covid19

 

 

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