Spread of Zika

Take steps to tackle scaremongering, misinformation

Zika poster at Tampines West Community Centre on Sept 3, 2016
Zika poster at Tampines West Community Centre on Sept 3, 2016 ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

As we come to grips with the Zika outbreak, a major concern is the lies, half-truths and misconceptions about the outbreak floating around the Internet and in public places ("Singapore a role model in its handling of Zika:WHO"; last Saturday).

It is also unfortunate that some political opportunists are exploiting the situation to gain social currency.

They are fanning unnecessary dissatisfaction about our leaders, and distrust for the authorities.

Many of the scaremongers seem to believe they are contributing to the situation, without realising that they can potentially cause anxiety, and even panic and unrest.

Over time, they may also erode the fabric of our society.

What will happen if similar misinformation and negative responses happen during a major crisis, such as a terrorist attack?

Many of the scaremongers seem to believe they are contributing to the situation, without realising that they can potentially cause anxiety, and even panic and unrest.

Over time, they may also erode the fabric of our society.

As social media and word-of-mouth can spread real and perceived news faster than the mainstream media, there should be systems and procedures in place to contain the sources of negative publicity.

We have to proactively prevent, respond to, and resolve negative communications during a crisis and ensure that they do not take root and become viral.

We need to prepare our people mentally and emotionally so that they will not fall into a state of unhealthy fear and paranoia.

They should be able to get key information and regular updates to help them stay calm.

They should also be confident in playing their parts and taking the appropriate measures.

In addition, they should be able to live normally.

While the authorities have done a good job in communicating to the public, there should also be systems in place to recruit and retain volunteers to help carry out crisis-response plans and activities.

During a crisis, we need appropriate volunteers to help our people stay calm, be patient, and take proper actions.

We need more helping hands to prevent any confusion, conflict and challenge that will affect our unity as a people.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2016, with the headline 'Take steps to tackle scaremongering, misinformation'. Print Edition | Subscribe