Myths in Africa and Asia and COVID-19 Popular Press Summary
1. Milne, A. (2020, March 18). In Africa and Asia, Coronavirus Myths Put Most Vulnerable At Risk. Thomas Reuters Foundation.
2. Lempinen, E. (2020, March 31). Africa Faces Grave Risks As Covid-19 Emerges, Says Berkeley Economist. Berkeley News.
3. BBC News Reality Check Team. (2020, April 24). Coronavirus: What Misinformation Has Spread in Africa?. BBC News.
4. World Health Organization. Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Advice for the Public: Myth Busters. WHO.
Review written by:
Dhruvi Chauhan edited by Jinwen Zhang
In Africa and Asia, myths about the coronavirus could endanger people who live in remote and rural areas with limited access to accurate information. Influential figures have played a role in disseminating myths and inaccurate claims regarding remedies and the spread of the virus. In India, the guru and entrepreneur Baba Ramdev claimed to have found an ayurvedic remedy that prevents COVID-19. Dr. Giridhar Babu, an Indian public health professor, pointed out the dangers of public figures like Baba Ramdev spreading this type of misformation. In Africa, rumors blaming people with albinism — those who are already at higher risk for violence in their communities — put them at further risk of stigma and retaliation. Another dangerous misconception spreading in Africa is that those with darker skin are innately immune to COVID-19, an idea which was criticized by the Kenyan health minister.
Misinformation can be very dangerous for populations with limited health infrastructure. Some regions may not have enough ICU beds, equipment or providers to respond to an outbreak. Some countries, such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, have limited control over borders and population movement, hampering social distancing efforts. For countries such as the US and Europe, they may be unable to provide support or aid to struggling health systems in developing countries because of the severe outbreaks nationwide.The WHO’s focus on debunking myths about the coronavirus remains important in vulnerable regions.