Those forwarding these messages not realising that they are creating panic, says police official

Social media platforms are being flooded with unverified messages regarding the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). The messages, most of which are misleading and untrue, are causing panic among netizens.

Messages are doing the rounds on messaging platforms like WhatsApp, claiming that several persons in the city have tested positive for COVID-19. Some messages even claim that a few infected persons have left hospitals without the consent of doctors and are now untraceable.

On Friday, a message went viral claiming that a resident of Malkapuram tested positive for the virus and has infected several others. There are also messages stating that schools, colleges and malls will be shut down indefinitely and examinations will be postponed.

“A few days ago, I received a message claiming that a person studying at a corporate college in Rushikonda has tested positive, and has also infected many other students on his campus,” said a resident of Visalakshi Nagar.

Officials not amused

“These messages are all fake,” said a furious S. Tirupathi Rao, District Medical and Health Officer (DMHO) of Visakhapatnam.

“I condemn such messages. Till date, the district has not registered a single positive case. People should not panic if they come across such messages. Awareness is already being created through various means,” Dr. Tirupathi Rao added.

Cybercrime Police Station Inspector V. Gopinath took a harsh view of people forwarding such messages without verifying if they are true or not.

Word of caution

“People should refrain from forwarding such messages without verification. Those forwarding such messages might believe they are doing so to spread awareness, but do not realise that they are ending up creating panic,” Mr. Gopinath said.

The Inspector also had a word of caution for scaremongers.

“Unless officials release a statement, the public should not be concerned and should not respond to the unverified messages or forward them. If a person is found tp be circulating false messages, action will be initiated,” he said.

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