Shabir Ahmad Lone
Various conspiracy theories have emerged regarding the origin of Covid-19. On both social media and news channels, such theories are being discussed. In the initial stage of Covid-19, the United States blamed China for not informing the world about the outbreak. Many political and non-political outfits in US also claimed that the virus was a part of Chinese biological weapons programme, but the Wuhan Institute of Virology debunked this theory. The defence ministry of Russia published an article titled “Coronavirus” in news outlet Zvezda, claiming that the virus was part of American Biological Warfare against Russia and China. Some theories on social media linked the coronavirus with 5G mobile networks and many 5G towers were set ablaze in the United Kingdom. Iran, too, joined the blame game with its supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, accusing the US of having created a special version of the virus to kill Iranians by using their genetic data. In India, the Tabligi Jamaat was accused of various news channels and Hindutva elements for spreading the virus deliberately.
Medical misinformation was circulated on social media regarding how to prevent and treat the coronavirus, ignoring the guidelines of the World Health Organisation. In India many people spread rumours that those who eat meat become infected with coronavirus. People also claimed that drinking cow urine and applying cow dung on the body can cure Covid-19. In Iran and Turkey, methanol was consumed by many in the mistaken belief that it will protect from coronavirus. More than three-hundred people died of methanol consumption.
In February, the Regional Emergency Director for WHO said that there is no evidence that Covid-19 was produced in a laboratory as a biological weapon. He further added that it is a class of viruses that is primarily called zoonotic as they come from animals.
In the wake of such speculations, it should be realised that conspiracy theories are based on unreliable mechanisms for interpreting reality and are always a result of false beliefs that are often constructed for political and strategic reasons. Before blindly accepting anything, we should develop the sense of reason and encourage others to think analytically.
The xenophobic sentiments and agenda-driven narratives are only adding more panic and confusion to an already messy situation. The government should act against media outlets which are promoting hatred and disturbing communal harmony in society through fabricated news by linking Covid-19 with people of a particular community. Finally, we must adhere to guidelines of the World Health Organisation and the medical fraternity by taking precautionary measures. We must avoid self-medication and other substances which have no medicinal value.
Encouraging people to think analytically can be an effective tool to debunk the false descriptions of reality on which conspiracy theories are based.