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Fake news and excessive buying promotes panic

The Coronavirus is causing massive hysteria and panic across the world, with fake news circulated every minute and people relying on panic buying.

The Western Cape government has warned people not to adhere or listen to false claims on the internet. Many businesses and shops also plead that people not go into a panic mode of buying and consuming.

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses common among animals. The viruses can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to a common cold.

A new Coronavirus was identified in China associated with an outbreak of pneumonia. This virus is better known as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV or Covid-19), which has resulted in a number of deaths – many in China, Italy, the UK and the Philippines.

Facebook, Twitter and many news pages have become hothouses for fake news since the outbreak occurred in January.

Daniël Mashope, researcher and social media expert in Cape Town, says such fake news causes unnecessary panic and social media outlets should monitor all news relating to the virus.

“It is important to know all the right facts relating to incidents like this,” he said, “so education is key.”

The Western Cape government released an in-depth infographic on the disease, which is available online.

In it, it states current travellers to Wuhan, China and other affected areas of the country are at greatest risk of infection, and other high-risk countries are the UK, USA and Switzerland.

People who develop symptoms of respiratory illness, including a cough, fever or shortness of breath within 14 days of travelling to countries where the Covid-19 is known to be circulating, should seek medical care early and share information about travel history with their doctors.

There are currently no vaccines available to protect people against human Coronavirus infection.

People are also currently buying massive amounts of toilet paper, canned goods and other non-perishable items. The World Health Organisation said in a statement that people should not start panic buying and leave products for others who also need it, as times are uncertain.

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