A mobile phone screen displaying icon for popular social media applications (source: www.newsweek.com)

BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 27th March 2020)-Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hazel Laws is correcting misinformation regarding the now local cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in response to certain claims circulating via social media, particularly WhatsApp and Facebook including widespread messages that there are more than two confirmed cases in the Federation.   

Additionally, another health expert is asking members of the public not to send around images of individuals who have allegedly been infected as photos of the two local alleged patients have been sent around.

“Sensational stories circulating on social media should be taken as false, misleading and questionable.  To win this fight against the COVID-19 pandemic demands honesty of intentions at all levels; true and demonstrative partnership by all sectors of society; and integrity in the behaviour of every citizen and resident of St. Kitts and Nevis, “commented Dr. Laws in a statement yesterday afternoon (Thursday 26th March 2020).

As shared by her: “As of 4:00 pm today Thursday, March 26, 2020, there still remain only two (2) confirmed cases of COVID-19 in St. Kitts & Nevis. Of the 18 cases that were pending at CARPHA, we have received negative results for six (6) cases.  We await the results of the remaining 12 cases.”

 Dr. Laws continued: “In spite of my major priority in leading our COVID-19 response and, in particular, our contact tracing programme to keep our people safe, I am compelled to take the time to address the public on the matter of malicious and misleading voice messages that have been circulating via social media that (a) attempt to bring dishonour to our National COVID-19 Task Force; and (b) create the false impression that my relationship with the Honourable Prime Minister is confrontational. There is no such confrontational relationship.  Neither is there any political influence being exerted on me in the performance of my duties.  Nothing good can come from these falsehoods that are deliberately contrived to create ill will, fear and distrust in the public who are already concerned about this pandemic. As the International Health Regulations (IHR) focal point for the Federation, I am duty bound to report all CARPHA laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) within 24 hours of receipt of the laboratory results from Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).”

The top health official says members of the public can check online for daily information.

“Both PAHO and CARPHA are partners of the Ministry of Health and can corroborate the information we have provided to the public.  Additionally, the public is also free to regularly check the websites of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and PAHO, where the COVID-19 status of each United Nations Member State is updated on a daily basis.”

 “As has been noted by the Ministry of Health repeatedly, we want the public to understand that the Ministry remains the only official source of information on COVID-19.  Sensational stories circulating on social media should be taken as false, misleading and questionable.  To win this fight against the COVID-19 pandemic demands honesty of intentions at all levels; true and demonstrative partnership by all sectors of society; and integrity in the behaviour of every citizen and resident of St. Kitts and Nevis,” Dr. Laws added.

Dr. Al Pierre of the St. Kitts and Nevis Medical and Dental Association, during an appearance on the weekly ‘Policing With You’ programme aired live on ZIZ Radio yesterday morning as part of a panelist involving members of the COVID-19 Task Force, urged members of the public to stop sending around images, via social media, of individuals allegedly infected with the illness.

“When you circulate a photo of someone, you are also saying that this is someone with a particular disease,” he stated. 

Dr. Pierre pointed to the mindfulness that individuals should have since the coronavirus can affected any one.

“This disease is no respecter of person or status… creed or race. The impact study that was done has shown- and that’s before this [illness] left the Asian continent- that 50% of our population will have coronavirus. Right now that is being revisited and it’s seeming that 60% to 70% of the population will have coronavirus so when you circulate a photo of someone as if this is the person who will get coronavirus, you are making a mistake, because it is just a matter of time before someone in your family or yourself suffer from coronavirus.”

This media house has seen the social media- shared photos of the two alleged COVID-19 patients.