Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar called on the public to avoid sharing unverified information about the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD).
Andanar made the call amid the proliferation of fake news about the 2019-nCov on social media.
He warned that the spread of misleading information about the new type of virus that originated from Wuhan City, China would only sow “unnecessary panic and overreaction among the masses.”
“As the situation is that of a public health emergency, we are asking the public not to spread unverified and alarmist information about the virus,” Andanar said in a press statement.
“Though they may be made with good intentions, these unverified information and recommended precautions can impede the genuine efforts of the government and health experts with regards to dealing with the potential spread of the virus. More importantly, it will cause unnecessary panic and overreaction among the masses,” he added.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe and file charges against peddlers of fake news about the 2019-nCoV.
The global death toll since the 2019-nCoV outbreak was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019 has already climbed to more than 490.
The deadly virus has also infected over 24,000 people.
In the Philippines, three Chinese nationals from Wuhan, China are the first patients who have been confirmed to have been afflicted with 2019-nCoV.
Timely, accurate, reliable info drive
Andanar guaranteed that the PCOO is doing its best in delivering a “timely, accurate, and reliable” information about the confirmed and suspected cases of 2019-nCoV in the Philippines.
“As the lead communications arm of the government, the PCOO has been at the forefront of delivering timely, accurate, and reliable information about the 2019-nCoV-ARD to the public,” the PCOO chief said.
“Trust that the government, through PCOO and its attached agencies, will immediately communicate to the public developments regarding the nCoV situation and continue to provide reminders on precautionary measures needed to prevent the spread of the disease,” he added.
Andanar said the “Laging Handa” crisis communications team has been tapping all government media platforms to provide the public with integrated information and updates from various government agencies with regard to the new strain of coronavirus.
Andanar said the PCOO will ensure the dissemination of “vetted” information and updates to the public, along with directives and procedures put into place by frontline agencies handling the situation to contain the 2019-nCoV.
In line with the latest directive of President Rodrigo Duterte, there will also be an “hourly” update through state-run broadcast media outlets, PTV-4, Philippine Broadcasting Service, and IBC-13, Andanar said.
Andanar added that public reminders will also be complemented by dissemination of infographic materials and quick news updates through PCOO’s attached news firm Philippine News Agency, public information arm Philippine Information Agency, and communication services arm the Bureau of Communications Services.
“Once again, we ask the public to be vigilant and cooperate with the authorities, abide by the procedures set in place by our government agencies with regards to travel, directives to frontline services, and follow the recommended preventive measures for individuals and for workplaces. We also reiterate to everyone to remain calm and not to spread false information,” he said.
“Through the combined efforts of the government and the compliance of the public to the set procedures, we can go a long way in preventing the spread of the virus. The government is doing all it can, and we ask that the public cooperates in turn,” he added.
Andanar said the public can also get updates from www.doh.gov.ph/2019-nCov/Updates, the Department of Health’s (DOH) official webpage dedicated to nCOV.
As of Wednesday, the DOH has recorded a total of 133 patients under investigation in the country. (PNA)