Coronavirus: Forum calls on govt to criminalise spread of fake news

2020-03-15 11:08
Coronavirus warning seen at Cape Town International Airport.

Coronavirus warning seen at Cape Town International Airport. (Kate Henry, News24)

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The Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF) held its special NEC meeting on Friday 14 March in Midrand for other purposes including to communicate its position on the current global outbreak of the Covid-19 virus.

"The PPF on behalf of professionals and patriotic entrepreneurs of South Africa expresses our appreciation and commendation to the government of South Africa led by President Ramaphosa, the entire Cabinet, Minister of Health and his counterparts provincially in the manner in which they have managed and responded consistently without panic to the outbreak of Covid-19 in South Africa almost a week ago," PPF President Kashif Wicomb said in a statement.

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During the meeting, the PPF praised the leadership of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for developing clear guidelines about the coronavirus.

The forum added that these guidelines continue to greatly assist countries in knowing the different stages and thus governments can identify which interventions are needed as part of preventing and managing the spread of the Covid-19 globally, including South Africa.

The PPF NEC meeting came up with proposals for preventative measures the government, the private sector, professionals and patriotic entrepreneurs can use to ensure that the virus is not spread and but is manageable: 

  • That government must now consider introducing social distance measures as part of using the first seven to 21 days of the outbreak of this virus to drastically prevent its spread
  • That government must immediately direct all South African public and private industries to issue the sector-based guidelines to be customised and implemented as part of preventing the spread of Covid-19
  • All buildings rendering government services must have sanitisers to dispense, and an improved and functional ventilation system.
  • The government and other strategic partners intensify education awareness and specifically equip educators to communicate and teach the youth and learners on the prevention of coronavirus
  • The government re-orientates and trains community health workers as tracers of the Covid-19 virus, especially in townships, rural and farming areas
  • That government, through the minister of Employment and Labour, considers special regulations to guide those who are working from home due to Covid-19 or are in self-quarantine
  • That government as part of drastically reducing the propensity of spreading the novel coronavirus from other nations, considers introducing an immediate ban of people to and from the epicentre countries
  • That government, through the criminal justice system, criminalises those who spread fake news about Covid-19.
  • That government enforces the isolation of persons under watch with symptoms, history of contact and high-risk travel history.
  • That government develops capacity and processes to quarantine and separate all asymptomatic persons who are exposed to the virus from non-exposed persons

 The PPF NEC meeting called on corporations to work with the government to curb the virus:

  • Manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers must immediately cap, and where possible reduce, the price for material, medication and equipment such as masks, sanitiser etc used to prevent Covid-19
  • Corporate, especially the cellular network providers, offer reduced prices of data to enable people, learners and students to work from home in case of the extreme situation of pushing the nation to lock down.
  • Both public and private media houses must promote and make Public Interest Announcements dealing with Covid-19.

Furthermore, the PPF NEC meeting urged professionals and members of the public not to cause any panic where the virus is concerned:

  • Professionals and members of public desist from generating and spreading fake news about the coronavirus instead encouraged to only spread official Covid-19 news.
  • The messaging to receive and spread about coronavirus must be about prevention including adhering to the basics of hygiene.
  • Professionals and members of the public must adjust to a lifestyle change including healthy and hygienic living.

"The PPF is of the firm belief that the entire nation is fully behind the State's interventions including the professionals hence a need for all stakeholders to join hands in the prevention of the coronavirus," Wicomb said.  

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