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The Fact-Checker: July 27, 2020

Are we ready for Election Misinformation amidst COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 ushered in the new normal; a period where the only thing certain is uncertainty. What happens then when you throw in an election in that pot? And come to think of it, both the pandemic and the polls have a foundation of panic and obscurity. So, as anxiety ravages the globe over a proposed cure, Nigerians also anxiously await the outcome of the pending elections.

Covid-19 has been a threat to humanity ever since its debut in November/December 2019. The virus has, as of July 22nd, been the cause of 613,879 deaths across the world. In Nigeria alone, there are currently over 37,800 active cases.

And although the virus is deadly, the misinformation surrounding it is also problematic and worthy of more attention. After all, the UN termed the phenomenon an Infodemic, describing the prevalence of information (most of which are false) around the coronavirus. To this effect, a coalition of fact-checkers led by the international fact-checking network has jointly produced over 7,000 fact checks on COVID–19. 

Also, Dubawa has been following false claims and examining the patterns in which such news appear. Since the first case of COVID-19 in Nigeria, Dubawa has debunked allegations relating to cure, spread, and people of influence. All of these have been checked and published by Dubawa.

It seems even Tech giants have been dragged into the race against the infodemic to help reduce or rid the media space of such misleading content.

However, in contrast to Covid-19, which is relatively new, the concept of fake news is not novel in political discourse; especially when it comes to an election. During the polls, the primary determinant of who gets to be in control,  fake news is even more prevalent. Indeed, over the years, we’ve observed the polls as a fertile ground for false statements, as politicians, political parties, and their followers tend to overstate or understate in attempts to get voters on their sides. 

Furthermore, election observations and monitoring carried out by Dubawa have also shown evidence of the length people go to spread misinformation on behalf of political candidates for office. And although elections have been occurring in Nigeria, there has still not been a way to put perpetrators of fake news to account. Now, to think of having an election amidst this pandemic appears like waking from a nightmare to another one. 

As things are, an average voter in Nigeria already has a lot to consider. While he or she worries about the risk of turning up at the polling unit amidst a pandemic, a prospective voter also has to prepare for the possibility of violence at the polling unit. It, therefore, falls on us the “truth corps” to help alleviate some of the physiological distress disinformation brings, in these trying times amid an incumbent election. 

So, as balloters prepare for the upcoming Edo and Ondo state elections, fact-checkers, in turn, need to be ready for the ensuing “misinfo-election” amid an infodemic in a pandemic

Coronavirus Q & A

  • How is Nigeria Fairing with COVID-19 testing?

According to data obtained from NCDC, as of July 25th, Nigeria had conducted 259,516 tests of its over 200 million population and found 39,977 infected persons. Out of these, the agency recorded 856 fatalities and 16,948 recoveries.

PremiumTimes has also published a review of states topping and lagging on the testing chart.

  • What is the Update on Vaccines?

After noting that there are over 20 vaccines in clinical trials, the chief scientist of the World Health Organisation, Soumya Swaminathan said coronavirus vaccination could begin in the middle of next year.  She was captured by Premium Times to have said, “We have now over 20 candidates in clinical studies. So we are hopeful that a couple of them will work. It would be very unlucky if all of them fail, So if we are very practical, then we are looking at the middle of 2021 when we will have a vaccine that can be widely deployed,” she also added that “Of course it’s impossible to predict.”

Also, as contained in the coronavirus vaccine tracker, scientists across the world are working on over 165 coronavirus vaccines from which 27 are in a human trial. The tracker also hinted that researchers are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year. 

  • Did NAFDAC approve Paxherbal Cugzin as a treatment for COVID-19?

While some media posts have announced that the National Agency For Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has approved the PaxHerbal-remedy as a treatment for COVID-19, the agency has refuted it

The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control has not officially approved any medications or remedies as a treatment for COVID-19. 

Tip of the week 

#FakeNews Alert 

We spend N1million daily on each severe COVID-19 patient – Lagos source: OnlineBlog (Momentousng)

Do not be quick to believe news reports, especially when they come from blogs and random social media pages. Always check and double-check every information that comes your way.

T.B. Joshua Healed COVID-19 Couple In US, Others Via Video Calls On Emmanuel TV –  Source: OnlineBlog (StarTrend)

Be sure this is not a publicity stunt before sharing. Ask yourself, is there a proof for this report?

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