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With growing widespread concerns about the coronavirus, this newspaper condemns in the strongest possible way those who are using this as an opportunity to spread fear and panic by posting fake news on social media.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and his team, including Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, have been doing yeoman service in keeping the public informed and updated on the virus in T&T. There are NO CASES here.

Why do people with access to social media feel that it’s okay to unleash fear and rumour-mongering on the population? We should instead be grateful that despite the thousands who came to the island for Carnival and the hundreds of cruise ship passenger who interact with us when they disembark, or even those who have travelled recently and returned. T&T remains free of the virus.

Many countries are taking a dim view of those who spread fake news about the virus. St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said his government will prosecute anyone caught spreading false news. In Hong Kong one month ago a security guard was arrested for spreading fake news. Iran has threatened to flog and imprison anyone caught spreading fake news and in the Ukraine misinformation about the coronavirus sparked protests and violence.

Attorney General Faris Al Rawi said he is trying to determine whether those who spread fake news about the coronavirus can be prosecuted. That it should reach to that stage is an indictment on us as a nation that even with the most serious of issues there are some intent on creating fear and panic.

By itself, this virus for which no cure or vaccine is yet available is causing enough concern in T&T. Thankfully, CARPHA has so far tested 26 people and those tests have all come back negative.

Instead of spreading fake news, people on social media would perhaps be doing themselves and the country more good, if they were to advise their followers about the steps they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones against the virus. This is a case where we can all be our brothers’ keepers. This virus has breached all ethnicities, religions and nationalities.

Curbing the spread of any virus is everyone’s responsibility. It is not just up to the government and health officials. They cannot be in our homes, our cars, our workspaces, our parks or playgrounds, or our gyms. This is a time for collective responsibility.

Let us be guided by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who last week told the country we cannot be “naIve” and think that the coronavirus cannot reach our shores. By the same token, without tangible evidence that it has arrived, let us be alert and responsible and not cause fear and panic when it is not warranted.