COVID-19: Former Cross River AG, Ochinke Wades In On Fake News

In Breaking News, Health, International News, Reports

By Ushang Ewa

As the SARS – CoV-2 pandemic ravages the globe, a former Attorney General and justice commissioner in Cross River State has warned residents about the effect of sharing fake news as the world battles to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Ochinke who shared what he described as “a painstaking” effort to verify the story of three suspected cases of the SARS – CoV-2 pandemic last weekend in his native Boki local government said, the danger was that when a credible threat came, it could be dismissed as fake by relevant authorities.

The trouble began on Friday, April 10th when social media was awash of three imported cases of COVID-19 in eastern Boki in a community tagged a ‘Hard To Reach Area.’

And, Ochinke in a Facebook post on Sunday explained the steps taken for verification.

“Yesterday (Saturday), social media was actively circulating a post about COVID-19 in Bumaji village in Eastern Boki. The story was that some Boki girls returned from Italy through Cameroon into Bumaji vilage with the dreaded corona virus.

“Concerned about this story I teamed up with Honourable Gabriel Ogre, (a) former councillor who is from that community, to investigate the matter. Ogre did the journey to Bumaji village.

“A trip to Bumaji from Calabar is not a simple expedition. Upon arriving Obudu, he headed to Sankwala in Obanliku. At Sankwala he persuaded some nurses at the General Hospital to accompany him into the village so that if the story is correct the nurses can arrange immediate isolation and collect samples for testing.

“The trip from Sankwala to Bumaji was by motorcycles because of the terrain and bad road, but the arrived Otsekwai community in Bumaji and immediately started the investigation. They discovered the entire story to be fake; a mischievous false alarm. The team slept ln Bumaji and Honorable Ogre called this morning (Sunday) to provide information for this report.

“Incidentally the villagers said the only incident worth noting was that a mentally unstable woman from neighbouring Okwa community came to Bumaji to see relatives but the people turned her back insisting that during this period, movement between communities is restricted,” Ochinke wrote.

Read the Facebook post here…

On the dangers of sharing fake news or practicing yellow journalism, he averred that: “I have taken time to state this report to dispel the social media alarm, but also to show the pain and expense in dispelling such rumour. So it is not fun to generate a false story and circulate as a joke. The danger is that we may eventually ignore a credible alarm. I thank Honorable Ogre for the sacrifice in making this journey, and especially the nurses in Sankwala for braving the rough terrain on motorcycles, ready to confront possible cases of COVID-19.”

Also, he commended those who brought the story to his attention and the sensitization efforts of the Cross River state government.

“Finally I thank Dr Romanus Eriom, my family doctor, who first brought this to my attention and insisted that I investigate the incident. To end on a happy note, this investigation reveals that the public education on COVID-19 being undertaken by the Cross River state ministry of health, is penetrating even remote communities,” he wrote.

The Nigerian Center for Disease Control has so far announced 373 confirmed cases of the virus infection of which 10 deaths have been recorded with 99 people discharged.

19 states out of 36 and the Federal Capital Territory have confirmed cases while as at press time, there were 1,999,994 confirmed cases globally according to data from Worldometer.

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