Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)

  • COVID-19: At resumption, Nigerian universities pledged to keep students safe, how have they kept this promise?

    Ten months after they were forced to go home from March 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic and a strike by their teachers, the close to two million students of Nigeria’s 170 universities started getting notices from the Federal Government to return to campus by January 18.

    The immediate challenge however was whether the tertiary institutions had the capacity, in terms of personnel and facilities, to meet the COVID-19 prevention needs of the burgeoning population of students.  

    With case counts still at a little over 100,000 in the country then, notable among the skeptical voices was that of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which asked students to remain at home, because of what it claimed were inadequate facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the universities. 

    But the management of many of the  institutions responded with statements of assurances, promising the students and the public of safety upon resumption. As it is evident in some pictures posted online shortly after resumption, some universities made modest moves towards COVID-19 prevention. How have they fared two months down the line?

    DUBUWA visited some of these institutions to ascertain their level of compliance with COVID-19 preventive measures, such as regular hand washing,  temperature checks, physical distancing, and the wearing of face masks as advised by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

    Feeble adherence in North-Eastern universities


    The main gate of ATBU Yelwa campus  had no handwashing facilities, temperature checks, and hand sanitizers on February 20, 2021

    Although students were compelled by university security staff to wear facemasks at the entrance gate of the Yelwa Campus of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), DUBAWA observed that most of them take off their masks as soon as they are within the campus.   There were no temperature checks or hand washing facilities at the gate, hostels, or anywhere else on the campus. Furthermore, some classes visited were filled up with no adherence to the social distancing guidelines. 

    This is against the NCDC advice that schools should “ensure that a triage point is identified and well-marked at the entrance where everyone gaining access to the school is screened for high temperature, requested to wear masks and perform hand hygiene.”

    A 100-level student who preferred not to be named said it could be worse when new students resume. “I was in a class with over 2, 000 students crammed up to the brink and I’m sure that’s not all of us because some new students from the 2020/21 session are yet to resume.”

    “Please forget COVID-19 guidelines because nothing is fully adhered to here,” another student said.

    Photos and videos taken in different parts of the campus proved the statements to be valid.  DUBAWA made several attempts to contact the  school via the contact email form offered on the institution’s website but no  response was registered. The  Public Relations Officer of the university, Abdulkadir Shehu, also did not respond to phone calls and text messages.

    A 1000-seater lecture hall at ATBU,  overcrowded with students  on February 20, 2021

    Federal University Kashere

    The situation was similar at the Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State. When the school announced January 14 as its resumption date, it pledged to abide by the COVID-19 preventive guidelines. 

    The main entrance to the university had no hand washing facilities. Although some anti-Covid-19 items were present in the hostels and in front of some halls, most of them were empty or not functioning. The hand washing facility at the entrance to the Vice Chancellor’s office was also non-functional.

    DUBAWA did not notice temperature checks anywhere on the campus and social distancing in classes was not adhered to as the classes were crowded.  Furthermore, DUBAWA observed some lecturers who had no face mask on while lecturing in the crowded classes. While students at the gate were asked to put on their face masks, this rule was noticed to be broken soon after students stepped into school premises. Others merely hung the masks on their jaws.

    The NCDC guidelines direct that “Schools should ensure that all staff, visitors, and students above 6 years wear face masks at all times.”  DUBAWA placed several phone calls to Ali Magaji, the Unit Head and Senior Data Processing Officer of the school. When DUBAWA made a formal introduction, the call abruptly ended and was not answered on several follow up attempts. Text messages sent were equally ignored. 

    Not all failure in North-Central universities

    University of Jos

    “No facemasks, no entry” is an inscription displayed at some of the entrances and office complexes in the University of Jos.  At the Bauchi-Road and Naraguta campuses, DUBAWA observed that some students, staff, and visitors came in with facemasks, others removed them after passing through the gate while some did not have theirs on. The security guard on duty with the thermometre for temperature check at the Naraguta campus did not use it as of the time DUBAWA visited the campus.

    One of the gates in the University of Jos with no handwashing facilities or hand sanitizer

    During a tour of the Bauchi-Road and Naraguta campuses, DUBAWA observed poor compliance. About half of the students were without facemasks and hand washing materials were not seen at the main entrance, lecture halls, office complex, and student hostels.

     The John Kennedy Hall at the University of Jos filled  with students on February 19 with no physical distancing

    “I have not seen any handwashing point around. The worst of it is that our classrooms are crowded and using facemasks is very inconveniencing. In my opinion, the management failed to comply with the protocols; they need to revisit their strategies”, observed a 300-level student of the Faculty of Education who DUBAWA decided not to publish their name owing to a record of victimisation by Nigerian tertiary institutions. At Skye Bank Hall, a lecture theatre on the Naraguta campus mostly used by the Faculty of Education, students were crowded during a lecture; some were sitting on the floor with  no physical distance observed, and the majority of the students (including the lecturer) were without their facemasks.

    Students sitting on the floor with no physical distancing  in the John Kennedy Hall, University of Jos on February 19, 2021

    As seen in the picture above, the one-metre distancing advised by the NCDC was not adhered to.  When DUBAWA reached out to the institution, Ben Mairiga, the Director, Health Services of University of Jos stated that the university had commenced the process of ‘erecting mitigating and preventive policies and structures’ . He added that it is a work in progress and they are unrelenting. As regards lecturer/students’ poor compliance, Mr Mairiga explained that  behavioural change is sometimes very difficult especially when dealing with students with some in their adolescent, implying that they can be rebellious. Nonetheless, he said despite very obvious challenges, the university was unrelenting and progress was still being made. As follow up on efforts ongoing, he sent a picture of a handwashing facility which, he said, was currently being installed in several parts of the school.

    University of Jos VC, commissioning one of the locally made hand washing machine in the library 

    Nasarawa State University, Keffi

    A visit to the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, on Monday February 15, 2021, revealed the adherence to some protocols like temperature check at the gate and the enforcement of face masks. However,  there was no hand sanitizer and the handwashing facility at the gate was not useful. 

    NSUK main gate, with the redundant handwashing facility 

    Generally, students at different points within the school did not have their face masks on. Social distancing was also not observed in crowded places within the school. Across faculties and departments, handwashing facilities are available but students rarely use them. From our observation and interview with students, we understood that in class, how strictly the protocols (face mask and social distancing) are adhered to depends on the lecturer. While some lecturers strictly enforce it, others don’t.  Also, we noticed that the school clinic was under lock and key due to a strike action by its staff. Dubawa emailed the information and protocol officer of NSUK and got no response several days after.

    University of Ilorin (UNILORIN)

    Upon resumption in January, the Head of Public Relations unit of UNILORIN said the institution was ready to welcome students back to campus, saying the management had provided handwashing facilities in all students’ areas and that physical distancing would be strictly adhered to.

    Although the university management provided hand washing basins in different faculties and hostels across the school, only a few had water and none had soap or sanitizer as of the time of visit. 

    Non-functional handwashing facilities at the University of Ilorin seen on February 15, 2021

    The number of people wearing facemasks is high in the school. Although, many still violate the facemask guidelines. 

    Students gather under a shade, some without a face mask and no physical spacing in the University of Ilorin 

    There are instances of overcrowded classrooms and big gatherings at pavilions and class entrances.

    Students receiving lecture without observing physical distancing in the University of Ilorin
    Face masks on display for sale at Unilorin on February 17.

    Dubawa reached out to the school’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Kunle Akogun, who said the school had put in place different measures to guarantee full compliance in the school. “If not maximal, at least, to a very large extent, we have complied with the protocol,” he said.

    Same story in North-western institutions

    Bayero University Kano

    On a visit to both the old and new sites of the Bayero University, Kano (BUK) on Monday, January 18, 2021, DUBAWA  noticed that only the use of face masks was enforced at the gate. There were no temperature checks; hand washing facility or the use of hand sanitizer.

    This is a violation of the NCDC guideline that “all schools must ensure that there is sufficient access to running water, soap and hand washing facilities.”

    Main gate of BUK: No handwashing facilities, temperature checks or hand sanitizers

    Moving around faculties, departments, the library, and the mini-market known as Coke Village in the school, DUBAWA noticed a mechanical hand washing facility but they were all redundant and hand sanitizers were not available to cover for this. Aside from the library where students were asked to put on their face masks before entry and the Faculty of Communication where there was temperature check, enforcement of face masks, and the use of hand sanitizer, elsewhere around the school, students were left to their discretion.

    One could say the university has failed to live up to its promises. Fatima Mohammed, the Registrar of  the university, had issued a statement in January urging students to resume classes, assuring them that that the university had fully  prepared for the re-opening and had put in place all measures in compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.  

    Aliko Dangote Hall(one of the male hostels) in BUK without hand washing facilities

    When  Dubawa reached out to Ahmad Shehu, the Director, Public Affairs, he said the university had made much efforts to meet up with the COVID-19 guidelines. He added that some of the handwashing facilities could be empty at times but the management has provided enough motorized hand washing machines and hand sanitizers at strategic places. As regards irregular use of face masks within the campus, the director said there was a general pessimism as regards the existence of the pandemic which is reflecting in people’s inconsistency in abiding with the general protocols.  

    Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria

    When the school resumed after the strike, the management assured that “all non-pharmaceutical COVID-19 protocols would be strictly observed anywhere on campus”. How have they been able to keep the promise?

    At the school gate at the Samaru main campus, there was strict enforcement of temperature checks and the use of face masks.

    Non-operational hand washing basin at ABU Zaria

    While some faculties and departments had handwashing facilities, others did not. Also, some lecture halls were filled up with poor use of face masks, while others were properly spaced and students had their face masks on. 

    Students receiving lecture at the Faculty of Arts with non-adherence to the physical distancing rule in ABU, Zaria 

    The entrance to the school library had different handwashing facilities and the use of face masks was enforced.

    Hand washing basins in front of the library at ABU, Zaria

    Enquiries made to the school management via the help desk email address found on the site has not been answered. Dubawa also reached out to the school’s PRO, Mr Auwal, via text message but did not get a response.

    Not much difference in Southwestern institutions

    Moshood Abiola Polytechnic

    DUBAWA noticed minimal compliance with the Covid-19 protocols at this school. Students and workers moved about freely without using nose cover within the school premises. Students only abide by the rules in offices that have notifications on its wall. 

    The students 18-passenger buses still convey the same number of students to school, and the long vehicle popularly known as “ECONOMY” in the school still carries over 50 passengers, many times in excess of the limit.  During visits to some departments, DUBAWA noticed low compliance with the Covid-19 protocols as the halls were congested with no social distancing as only a few students were seen with face masks. 

    However, Yemi Ajibola, the school’s Public Relations Officer, disputed Dubawa’s findings. “That’s a lie, we have put in place measures to support the protocols. The school inaugurated a task force to ensure that covid-19 protocols are strictly adhered to,  at the gate we have a hand washing machine and access into the school is not granted without a nose mask.” 

    He also said classes have been divided to reduce contact; ND students come in the morning while HND students come in the afternoon.

    An overcrowded classroom in Mapoly 

    Osun State University

    DUBAWA noticed a hand washing basin at the entrance of the institution and other places in the school.  However, some of these basins were found to be non-functional as of the time of visit on Friday, February 12, 2021.   

    With respect to the use of face masks,  a good number of students were seen with their face masks. However, most of them had it on their jaw.  

    DUBAWA also noticed that some of the COVID-19 precautionary facilities on the campus were not effective. Also noticeable was the non-adherence to physical distancing in most classes and hostels.

    When contacted, Shola Awojide, the Director of InterCampus Affairs, said the school had put measures in place to aid compliance with the covid-19 directives but that the management could not be everywhere to enforce them. In his word, “Management cannot be everywhere, we have put things in place to ensure that protocols are being observed.” 

    He added that the school was punishing defaulters.

    An overcrowded classroom at the Osun State University  

    Federal University Oye-Ekiti FUOYE

    At the Federal University Oye-Ekiti, the majority of the faculties have a hand-washing machine but provided no soap and water for students to use.  

    DUBAWA also identified that across all the faculties in the institution, no hand sanitizers and temperature checks were provided by the school for students and staff to use. 

    A certain student who pleaded anonymity lamented that the hostel was not complying with Covid-19 protocols as expected. “I feel terrible and insecure because lately, I have not been feeling too well. I hope it is not Covid-19. They are not following Covid-19 measures because there are even eight people in a room,” the student said.

    “Even the handwashing stuff is not working, no thermometer, no hand sanitizers, and nobody uses facemask. So you can just come inside the hostel and get out. I feel unsafe being in the hostel,” the student added. 

    Adeyinka Ademuyiwa, the school’s Deputy Director of Corporate Service, when called on the phone said that the state COVID-19 taskforce had been to the school and also noticed some faults in its adherence. However, he said the school had since intensified its efforts to attain full compliance. 

    He said, “All those things have changed. We are taking steps to enforce that no classroom is loaded more than half its original size and also incorporating virtual learning.” 

    COVID-19 Prevention Protocols In Nigerian Universities

    Conclusion

    COVID-19 precautionary measures are not well adhered to in most Nigerian universities. DUBAWA’s findings point to the reality that most of the universities, especially the ones visited, are not keeping up with the prescribed coronavirus standards and cannot provide or even enforce full adherence to COVID-19 precautionary guidelines.    

    Furthermore, social distancing was being violated across all the campuses visited, despite most of the lecture halls being crowded with students.  The regular use of face masks across these institutions is most of the time ignored, as face masks are usually worn on the jaw or not at all. Some lecturers were even seen without facemask while delivering lectures while handwashing facilities were either absent or non-functional with no enforcement school officials. These lapses could  be linked to the long trend of poor funding of the education sector, inefficient facilities, and the increasing number of students in schools without adequate resources. This reality also confirmed that most universities which promised strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols are unable to fulfill their promises. 

  • Doubting Covid-19 Data: An Analysis of Comments on NCDC Daily Tweets on Rising New Confirmed Cases

    Summary

    With the recent hike in the number of new covid-19 infections, there are concerns about a possible second wave. However, many believe the rising numbers are simply a hoax by the government to suit their agenda. In this piece, we analysed Twitter users’ comments to the daily updates tweets of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Our analysis was limited to comments doubting the accuracy of the official figures. NCDC’s deactivation of general users’ replies on its handle did not help matters. Our analysis suggests a general lack of trust in the authorities with users making their own conclusions and formulating conspiracy theories suggesting the numbers are deliberately being manipulated by the government.  This should be a cause for concern for relevant stakeholders. There should be strategic and sustained effort to limit the misinformation in the public space to overcome the ravaging pandemic and the sister “infodemic”. 

    Introduction

    In the past couple of months, many regions of the world have experienced a surge in covid-19 infections leading to a second wave of the covid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, Africa has been relatively less affected despite having over 300,000 active cases, 2.4 million total confirmed cases, and almost 57,000 confirmed deaths in the region as at mid-December.  Nigeria appears to have fared relatively well in this pandemic, while staying below 70,000 up till Dec 7, 2020 despite the surge experienced months earlier. Experts have however warned that the numbers may not be reflective of the true rate of infections due to the country’s limited testing capacity.   

    Nigeria may now be on its way to a second surge in covid-19 infection.  Since early December, 2020, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has been reporting rising new Covid-19 infections leading to significant rise in the number of confirmed cases in the country.  It recorded almost 800 cases of new infections on December 11, 2020, a significant rise from the roughly 100 to 200 average frequently reported weeks earlier. The 796 new cases reported on December 11 was the highest recorded since the beginning of the outbreak in Nigeria. The spike is well visualised in the epidemiological curve updated on the agency’s website.

     

    The NCDC, in its weekly epidemiological reports also provides weekly updates on new confirmed cases. This provides a clearer perspective of trends in new infections. The changes are more consistent in the weekly curve. During the weeks under review, the NCDC reported a sharp rise in new confirmed cases for COVID-19 Epi Week 49 spanning November 30th to December 6th 2020, and Week 50, spanning Dec 7th to December 13th. The cases rose from 1,029 new infections in preceding week 48 to 1,843 in week 49 and jumped to 3,918 in Week 50.

    The increasing numbers have pushed the NCDC to increase its sensitisation campaigns on its online platforms, such as on Twitter, and also offline. NCDC is increasingly sensitising citizens to #TakeResponsibility, and has issued a fresh public health advisory requesting public adherence to basic COVID-19 safety guidelines.  

    As part of its sensitisation efforts, the NCDC posts daily updates on coronavirus infections on its websites and social media handles.  In this analysis, we examined public reactions to the recent spike in cases on the agency’s daily tweets of newly confirmed cases. For reason(s) best known to the Agency, users are blocked from posting replies to its Tweets. This has however not stopped Nigerians from adding their voice and expressing their views on the rising cases on the agency’s Twitter handle. Many used the retweeting options to add their comments before retweeting the daily update posts.

    Comments varied widely comprising the good, the bad; from those genuinely concerned about the rising data to those who outrightly dismissed them. Many concerned Nigerians decried the rising COVID-19 cases with many urging citizens to #TakeResponsibility; and for the government to promptly act to curb the rising trend before it becomes too late.  The critics were also very active with diverse views and opposing perspectives.  

    Method

    In the analysis below, we explored NCDC daily tweets on COVID-19 case updates for December 1 to 14, on the agency’s verified Twitter handle @NCDCgov.  During this period the country recorded fluctuating numbers of new COVID-19 infections ranging from 122 confirmed cases recorded on Dec 2 to 796 cases recorded on December 11.  In selecting samples for the analysis, we first did a purposive sampling of the tweet on the largest number of new infections, December 11. And then randomly sampled three other tweets from the 14 day study period. Hence, all comments included in retweets of the Agency’s daily updates for December 1, 7, 8, and 11 were qualitatively analysed for this piece. The analysis is limited to comment contesting the released data. Details of the analysed tweets are presented in the table below.

    Sampled DateReported New CasesRetweets with commentsRetweets without commentsTotal Retweets & Comments
    101/12/202028163171234
    207/12/202038941151192
    308/12/20205506354521,087
    411/12/202079611046661770

    Analysis

    Based on our analysis of public retweets doubting the reported data, we identified eight categories of reactions. This included tweets expressing outright denials, abuses of relevant authorities, jests, conspiracy theories, and complacency. Others were critical of the reported numbers, NCDC’s deactivation of reply option to its tweets, while others simply digressed, calling for accountability for the Lekki shootings.

    ‘Scamdemic’: The Denials

    A recurring view among the analysed comments is the recurring denials, with many still suggesting the non-existence of COVID-19 especially in Nigeria. One of the users described the situation as “Scamdemic,” in a spiteful attempt to add to the growing lexicon emerging from the current pandemic. Many simply dismissed the numbers being released describing them as “fake and fraud”

    Many remained adamant suggesting the authorities have ulterior motives, deliberately “inflating” the data to claim “there is a second wave,” thus insisting “government is the coronavirus we have in Nigeria, there is no coronavirus anywhere in Nigeria.”

    Yabis’ galore

    Yabis here is used to describe abusive comments in the retweets. Many users used the platform to express their frustrations and outrightly vent their anger with deluge of insults on the authorities, the NCDC and its officials. One user wrote “ u (you) idiots, there is a vaccine already in the market. You are here broadcasting live scores. Nonsense”. Another cursed, “God punish una (you) with photoshop numbers.”

    Jests, Trivialisation

    Many disregarded the seriousness of the issue and simply turned comical, virtually laughing off the rising numbers and often including laughter emojis in their tweets. One user described the daily tweets as “Super Story” relating the released figures to the popular Nigerian television drama series.  

    Conspiracy theorists

    Many of the comments portray a general lack of trust in the government.  Many expressed varied conspiracy theories on government motives for projecting the rising numbers.  Among the conspiracy theories reported Covid-19 rising data being used, as cover-up for corruption, to prevent resurgence of #EndSARS protest, justify possible lockdown, and perhaps also the country’s Covid-19 vaccine demand from the international community.

    Corruption

    Top on the claims is corruption with many believing that the supposed Covid-19 outbreak in Nigeria is simply an avenue for government officials to siphon public funds. Users disrescribed the released rising data as “money making machine using Covid-19 as cover up” and as an attempt to “enjoy second wave money”.

    Preventing #EndSARS protests resurgence

    Some expressed views suggesting government was deliberately manipulating the figures to justify prevention of future #EndSARS protests, and also to probably link the rising Covid-19 cases to the large gatherings that characterised the nationwide protests that occurred in October. Some therefore reject the alleged government scheme remaining resolute to the cause. One user asked “Hope you guys are not deliberately exaggerating this in order for government to use is as a reason why second wave of #EndSARS protests should not hold?” Another wrote “What’s happening in Abuja? If it’s to scare #EndSARS activities, the the figures won’t work”

    Lockdown Justification

    Many also argued that the government might be inflating the numbers of COVID-19 cases to justify another likely lockdown which was mostly frowned upon. Some also regarded the rising number as a ploy by the government to shut down Christmas and New Year festivities. A user observed that “Overnight, viruses have started to wave up again. NCDC Naija, forget f**king lockdown”. Others lamented “they want to cancel December concerts” to prevent Nigerians from enjoying Christmas.”

    Vaccine Acquisition ploy?

    With the global race by governments around the world to acquire COVID-19 Vaccine, there are concerns that poorer nations could remain at the mercy of global giants in getting the vaccines for their citizenry. Many users reacting to NCDC’s tweets on the increasing number of covid-19 infections in the country therefore suggested that the country is deliberately hiking the numbers to justify its vaccine acquisition bid. Many went satirical noting “How do we get the vaccine for free? Increase the figures”. That way, “other nations can see us and donate vaccines  to us”, they mused.

    Critiquing the numbers

    Some Twitter users were critical of the numbers being released, wondering how the data were generated. There were particular references to data reported on specific states, particularly Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. A user wondered how 123 could be reported for Lagos on a particular day, dismissing it as too “generic,” noting they could have reported “132… or 124, (to) make it look real”. Others wondered why some states are reportedly having high numbers of new infections or reporting few or no new daily infections. Some users however expressed concern that the figures might be much higher than being reported, citing the country’s testing capacity. One of such users wondered “796 new cases reported. How many unreported?”

    The Lekki shooting cankerworm

    The Lekki shootings is seeming to be a thorn in the flesh of Nigerian government with some Twitter users making repeated reference to the unanswered questions from the unfortunate incidence of October 20, 2020. Such users asked “Who ordered the Lekki shooting? to challenge the government to “count the fallen heroes of the Lekki massacre” if they wish to remain relevant. 

    Complacency

    There also appears to be a general apathy towards Covid-19 among which many express disregard for the data being reported. It appears the relatively low severity of the Covid-19 infections in Nigeria might be contributing to the apathy and fuelling misinformation on the pandemic among Nigerians.  One twitter user hinted on the low fatality of Covid-19 in the country, “So a 1.6% death rate” probably to dismiss the potential threat of the rising cases.  Many thus dismiss NCDC’s tracking and reportage of the daily updates. Others simply dismissed the numbers claiming “nobody cares,” urging the authorities to find a better pastime as they should be “tired of cooking this burnt plantain.”

    Blocked replies

    Many users were displeased with NCDC’s decision to restrict access to the reply option on its Twitter handle.  That seems to have further dented the agency’s credibility rating among users. Many questioned NCDC’s decision to “mute comment,” wondering what the government is doing about public gatherings, “if this figure is really true.” One user wrote, “So @NCDCgov blocked me from replying to their scores. It has been a lie and will ever remain lies to Nigeians, who don’t know who was infected, except their cronies who are their agents in manipulation. There’s COVID-19, but not in Nigeria like they claimed.” 

    Conclusion

    In this analysis of public opinion on a possible second wave, our findings suggest that Nigerians have limited trust in the government and its agencies. Despite the severity of the situation and the need for everyone to take responsibility in halting the spread and ending the coronavirus pandemic, many continue to deny its existence, throwing caution to the wind and formulating conspiracy theories suggesting the government is deliberately hiking the numbers. Many of the counter arguments appear illogical, making one wonder about the rationale for such reasoning. For instance, it is surprising that Nigerians would even imagine the government would deliberately inflate Covid-19 data since governments probably have more to lose than gain from imposing restrictions on free movement of people. The country is already in a recession and another lockdown could spell doom for the already stretched economy. 

    These countering views expressed by Nigerians should therefore be a great concern for the government and communication strategists in winning the war against COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting infodemic. Efforts in combating public misinformation on COVID-19 needs to strategically address people’s concerns and prejudices. As evidenced in this study, attempting to shut down criticism may be counter productive, especially in today’s social media age. Today’s social media’s savvy audiences will simply find alternative means to air their views irrespective of any official discountenance. 

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