THE PRIME minister of Barbados has warned against spreading fake news around the coronavirus outbreak and encouraged people to get information from credible sources.
Mia Mottley, the first female prime minister of the Caribbean country, issued the warnings during an emergency meeting of Caribbean leaders, health professionals and representatives from the cruise industry on Sunday.
“We are fighting new forces in our ability to detect, contain and manage any public health outbreak,” Mottley said.
“It is absolutely important that people only seek and receive information from credible sources, credible established sources either nationally, regionally or internationally,” she added.
Mottley said that cruise operators have agreed, where possible, to take samples of passengers so they can be tested for COVID-19.
She added that discussions about enhanced measures will take place with operators of cargo vessels and airlines.
While the prime minister did emphasise the seriousness of the outbreak, she also sought to put it into context.
“In some countries, mosquito-born diseases pose a greater likelihood of problems for our people than COVID-19,” she said. “So we need to contextualise this, and we need to recognise that the one thing we cannot do is to start to attack nationalities or countries or to get a level of xenophobia and to close off borders, and to create barriers.”
She warned such actions would lead to loss of jobs, affect economic activity and increase opportunities for criminals.
On Sunday, the Caribbean’s first case of coronavirus was confirmed.
Health officials in the Dominican Republic revealed that a 62-year-old Italian man, who arrived in the country on February 22, was diagnosed with the new coronavirus.
He is being treated in an isolation unit at a military hospital.