International Covid-19 update: NGO recruits influencers to battle misinformation, UK death toll increases

2020-05-05 19:38
A researcher works on virus replication in order to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus. (Getty Images)

A researcher works on virus replication in order to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus. (Getty Images) (Getty)

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The Red Cross on Tuesday launched what it said was the first global network of social media influencers to battle misinformation about the coronavirus and spread lifesaving content about the pandemic, reports AFP.

Experts have been warning for months that the pandemic has been cloaked in a massive "infodemic" - a deluge of information, including widespread false claims, which can pose a serious threat to public health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) website lists a catalogue of dangerous "myths" circulating about the virus, including suggestions that hot peppers or excessive exposure to the sun can prevent or cure Covid-19.

"Getting the right information out there when an emergency strikes is as important as healthcare," Nicola Jones, media manager for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said in a statement.

In a bid to reach young people especially with accurate and vital information about the deadly disease spreading around the globe, IFRC said it had joined forces with marketing agency Billion Dollar Boy to sign up more than two dozen prominent individuals with large social media followings.

Those influencers who have signed on to the campaign so far have a joint reach of nearly two million followers across four countries, IFRC said, adding that it expected the list of participants, and followers reached, to swell significantly over coming days and weeks.

Influencers from the UK, Italy, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates are on the list.

Chaos as India's citizens buy alcohol

Police swung batons on Monday to beat back thirsty Indians jostling to buy alcohol for the first time in 40 days as the government eased further the world's biggest coronavirus lockdown, AFP reports.

Some state leaders had pushed for liquor stores to be reopened earlier, saying the money from alcohol sales was a major source of tax revenue.

The Delhi government said late Monday that it would slap a 70% "special corona fee" on liquor sales from Tuesday to boost revenue badly hit by the pandemic, local media reported.

The government credits its strict shutdown of almost all activity since in late March with keeping the official tally of Covid-19 cases to a relatively modest 42 500, with around 1 400 deaths - this in a country with a population of 1.3 billion people.

But the lockdown also resulted in misery for millions of workers in India's vast informal sector left suddenly jobless, and dealt a major blow to Asia's third-biggest economy.

Adding to some relaxations allowed for industry and agriculture last month, on Monday offices were allowed to operate with one-third capacity. Certain shops were allowed to open, and some cars and motorbikes were allowed on the roads.

Officials had painstakingly drawn chalk circles for booze customers to stand in, but the social distancing efforts were thwarted as people gathered from early morning.

UK now has second-highest death toll

The UK's death toll from the coronavirus has topped 32 000, according to an updated count released on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics, AFP reports.

The figures pushed UK past Italy to become the second-most affected country after the United States.

The new toll has not yet been incorporated into the official daily figures, which record the current number of deaths as 29 427.

The health ministry had previously announced only the deaths in hospitals of those who had tested positive for the virus.

Uganda eases lockdown regulations

AFP reports that Uganda began slowly easing coronavirus measures, allowing a number of businesses to re-open, even as its five-week lockdown was extended for another two weeks.

The capital Kampala appeared more lively than it has in recent weeks as food markets, wholesale shops, garages, workshops, law firms and hardware shops were allowed to re-open.

Uganda had imposed one of the strictest and swiftest lockdowns in Africa, but has joined those like neighbouring Rwanda in slowly easing the measures, after recording only 97 cases and no deaths. 

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