COVID 19 Communication Crisis and Misinformation


Covid-19 pandemic has immensely affected almost all aspects of life and lives around every bit of the world. The world has become paralyzed in terms of flow of information; and a large information gap has arisen. Most of the information relating to Covid-19 on social media has emerged as a major problem. Social media has opened up a new window to share the outcomes of documented and researched contents, but also created an opportunity for some people to fill this space with misleading information and rumors. These include, about the cure and protection from coronavirus, false reports, fabricated references and misleading videos. In response to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Bangladesh, several government, non-government and civil society organizations have been providing various types of information in different ways. The rapid study is conducted to assess the credibility and reach of this information in all levels of society. 

At the beginning of the pandemic in Bangladesh people were confused about certain terms and phrases that are being used internationally to deal with the pandemic, such as ‘stay at home’, ‘social distancing’, ’quarantine’, ’sanitization’, ’lockdown’. Each of these terms meant different understandings to people of different socio-economic backgrounds. Most people also have had doubts and confusion about the standard procedure of ―handwashing‖ or they were not sure what the proper meaning of ―sanitization‖ is. Moreover, the proper procedure of using masks and related information from different sources also were confusing or in some cases conflicting to each other. As a result, many people wore n masks in inappropriate ways which didn‘t provide them safeguard from the virus infection. The graphic microscopic images of the virus and its contamination to a human body shown on TV channels were also misinterpreted and many media outlets often circulated a large amount of contradictory information. 

On the other side, false and misleading information is pervasive during Covid-19. These include, different views of cure from coronavirus, false reports, fabricated references, widespread videos by Islamist commentators providing false and misleading information, that provoked ignorance of following rules of Govt. agencies like IEDCR (Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research) and WHO in Bangladesh citing that there‘s nothing to do with the Corona virus as it is given by God as a symbol of punishment because of misdeeds of human beings. As a result hundreds of thousands of people, regardless of education and socio-economic class living in rural and urban landscapes took this information into cognizance and ignored protection measures like wearing masks, maintaining social distance, washing hands etc. Most significantly, this phenomenon has created a fictional-spiritual discourse and dilemma among the large believer population on Covid-19, leading them to hardship to differentiate fact and fiction. The spread of misinformation and communication crisis triggered mass panic and adversely impacted individual health. 

To deal with disease, fear, panic, and uncertainty during a pandemic, it is imperative to ensure that the information provided to people is accurate and properly communicated. Sometimes, however, how this information is delivered is even more important, since a pandemic not only creates a public health and economic crisis but also generates misinformation and severe communication crisis. Thus, false news and disinformation creates huge panic among people and disrupts normal activities and put negative impact on both physical and mental health. Also, the government’s messages to people are unclear, vague which people can not translate into action due to lack of understanding the language properly which is also a communication problem. These areas are seen as the crisis of communications.