Press Trust of india

Better late than never; GoI issues advisory against stigmatization of communities/individuals

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New Delhi:  The government on Wednesday issued an advisory to address the social stigma associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, urging people not to label any community or area for the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The advisory comes after a spurt in coronavirus cases following a Tablighi Jamaat meet at the group’s headquarters in Nizamuddin here, and instances of people, especially on social media, blaming the Muslim community for the spread of the disease.

Public health emergencies during an outbreak of communicable diseases may cause fear and anxiety leading to prejudices against people and communities, social isolation and stigma, said the government advisory posted on the health ministry website.

Such behaviour may culminate into increased hostility, chaos and unnecessary social disruptions, the advisory said.

The government also listed various dos and don’ts in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Do not target healthcare and sanitary workers or police. They are there to help you,” the government told the people amid cases of harassment and social stigmatization of healthcare and sanitation workers.

Cases have been reported of people affected with COVID-19 as well as healthcare workers, sanitary workers and police, who are in the frontline for management of the outbreak, facing discrimination on account of heightened fear and misinformation about the infection, the advisory said.

Even those who have recovered from COVID-19 face such discrimination, it noted.

Healthcare workers including doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals are rendering their services tirelessly to provide care and medical and clinical support in this situation of crisis, the advisory noted.

It said sanitary workers and police are doing selfless service and playing critical roles in addressing the COVID-19 challenge.

They all deserve  support, praise and appreciation, the government said in the advisory.

Certain communities and areas are being labelled purely based on false reports floating on social media and elsewhere, the advisory said.

There is an urgent need to counter such prejudices and to rise as a community that is empowered with health literacy and responds appropriately in the face of this adversity, it said.

“Do not label any community or area for spread of COVID-19,” the advisory said.

It asked people not to spread on social media the names, identity or the locality of those affected by the virus or under quarantine.

The advisory also urged people to avoid spreading fear and panic.

Even though “COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease which spreads fast and can infect anyone of us, we can protect ourselves through social distancing, washing our hands regularly and following sneezing / coughing etiquettes”, it said.

The government said that despite all precautions, if anybody catches the infection, it is not their fault.

In a situation of distress, the patient and the family need support and cooperation, it said.

It must be noted that the condition is curable and most people recover from it, the advisory said.

Those directly involved in the management of COVID-19 are equipped with appropriate protective equipment to keep them safe from the infection, it highlighted.

The advisory asserted that targeting essential services providers and their families will weaken the fight against COVID-19 and can prove grievously detrimental for the entire nation.

It called on people to appreciate efforts of people providing essential services and be supportive towards them and their families.

“Share only the authentic information available on the website of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, government of India or the World Health Organisation,” the advisory said.

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