CORONAVIRUS:KUWAIT OFW QUARANTINE DAY #46-Combatting the Dissemination of Fake News

April 26, 2020 Sunday

“Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to our eyes. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or weak; and at last, some crisis shows what we have become.”

-Brooke Foss Westcott

In this day and age, the speed through which we can disseminate information to a vast global audience only continues to improve as social media platforms become more modern and diversified. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, this serves as a double-edged sword as malicious entities in these social media platforms thrive on spreading false information, which not only helps to harm the citizens of Kuwait but also poses a threat to national security.

In Kuwait, the Ministry of Health announced 183 new COVID-19 cases with 150 additional recoveries, and one further coronavirus death being recorded. This brings to a total tally of 3075 cases, with 806 recovered cases and 20 deaths. Within the new instances, twenty were related to travel, with 16 of them being Kuwaiti nationals who went to the United Kingdom, 2 Kuwait nationals who traveled to France, one Kuwaiti who traveled to Belgium, and one Indian resident who went to France. One hundred and forty-nine of them had contact with confirmed cases with 16 being Kuwaiti nationals, 52 cases of Indian residents, 14 instances of Bangladeshi residents, 26 cases of Egyptian residents, eight instances of Pakistani residents, 9 Syrian residents, 5 Yemeni residents, 3 Jordanian residents, 3 Lebanese residents, 3 Filipino residents, 2 N.K. residents, 2 Iranian resident, 1 K.S.A. resident, 1 Sri Lankan resident, 1 Ethiopian resident, 1 Nepali, 1 Italian resident and one case of an Iraqi resident. Other cases include 9 cases Kuwaiti nationals, 2 Sri Lankan residents, 2 Iranian residents, and 1 case of an N.K. resident.

 Two thousand, two hundred and forty-nine patients are currently receiving medical treatment, while 61 are in the intensive care unit with 31 cases being critical; another 30 are stable in the last 24 hours, and five more cases being transferred to the I.C.U. and another one patient to the ward. Compared to yesterday’s report, the new number of cases decreased. 

On the Spread of Fake News and Rumors in Social Media

Today marks the 46th day of the quarantine, 36th day of curfew, and the 4th day of the Holy Month of Ramadan. As of late, the amount of fake news has only been increasing lately, which is primarily due to some hidden entities and malicious individuals who post such false information on various social media platforms, which only tend to destabilize the situation and create undue confusion. This is due to the fact that in the past 48 hours, three main rumors surfaced and circulated widely on Twitter, which told the discovery of at least 1,800 abandoned children of Asian descent who were currently residing in the Jeleeb Al-Shuyuokh area with their foster families. However, a security source has announced such information as false and baseless.

There was also another rumor which concerned the claims that a doctor currently working for the Health Ministry passed away in the last 24 hours due to complications from the coronavirus. However, upon confirmation from the medical source, the said news was found to be untrue, and the doctor in question is now said to be in a stable and healthy condition. In social media platforms, there has also been a list of names of some expatriates, which was circulated with claims that they were infected with the coronavirus and, as such, warned people to stay away from them.

Among these names was a Yemeni resident called Wael Ojaili, who assured the daily that he was surprised by the number of calls he received in this regard and that his efforts to refute the news were futile. He tried to explain to everyone that the story was just a rumor being circulated by unknown entities, but since then, it has sparked a stigma within his family. Since then, he has called upon the assistance of the relevant security authorities to fight against this damaging phenomenon and enact justice against these rumormongers.

During this crisis, we are not only fighting a pandemic; we are also fighting and “infodemic” Fake news is something that spreads a whole lot quicker and easier than the virus, and it is just as dangerous. If we don’t confront and recognize this as a serious threat, we are headed down a dark path of division and chaos. False rumors that target specific individuals can have major consequences. These individuals may be harassed on social media and targeted by insults and threats that sometimes have real-life impacts, as seen in a small Ukrainian village. Two days of chaos and riots illustrated what can happen when people don’t trust their government but instead believe rumors and misinformation spread on social media. 

The Dangers of Consuming CLO2 as Medicine for COVID-19

This Sunday, the Assistant Undersecretary for Drug and Food Control Affairs, Dr. Abdullah Al-Badr explained that the Miracle Mineral Solution, which is currently being circulated in social media as a treatment for the coronavirus, should not be consumed incorrectly and is not scientifically proven and is thereby prohibited by the Ministry of Health for consumption. A study conducted by specialists in the Department of Prevention of Infection and Sterilization on April 8 this year discovered that the Miracle Mineral Solution contained a chemical called chlorine dioxide, a compound used for sterilizing and disinfecting surfaces.

Several organizations and regulatory authorities warned against the use of the said solution, such as the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, the Ministry of Health in the State of Qatar, and the Sultanate of Oman and the Jordanian Food and Drug General Authority. According to the Food and Drug Administration of America, the Miracle Mineral Solution consumption produced side effects such as respiratory failure, low blood pressure, liver failure, low blood cells, severe vomiting, and diarrhea.

In a statement released by Al-Badr, he announced that the product was not registered with any of the international regulatory bodies of the government and thusly warned that citizens should only use medications and treatment after having verified that such measures are registered and approved by the Ministry of Health.

Easing Commercial Restrictions

This Sunday, the government has concurred with the press that it is now planning to gradually ease restrictions regarding the commercial activities within a limited scope before the end of the Ramadan. In a statement to the press, they announced that this decision comes in light of the Cabinet’s decision during its last meeting to allow food delivery services to operate until 1:00 AM and the conclusion of the Ministry of Health to initiate the reopening of private clinics and hospitals during specific timings and the resumption of services in the Mubarakiya market.

Life Returns to Mubarakiya Market in Kuwait City

Days ago, Engr. Walid Jassem of the State Minister of Municipal Affairs issued the reopening of vehicle repair garages affiliated to cooperative societies, which were instructed to follow the strict health protocols in coordination with these societies. In a statement to the press, Eng. Jassem said that the vehicle repair garages were one of the services suspended by the government authorities in order to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. Since then, the restrictions have already been lifted but only within the specific precautionary health measures by the Ministry. This was done in a bid to serve the citizens and enable them to repair their cars as well as keep people away from those who are taking advantage of these exceptional circumstances.

Life has also returned to restaurants at night after the government allowed them to work and offer delivery services during the curfew from 5 PM until 1 AM. During a tour this Friday evening, it was discovered that a limited number of restaurants have already started their services along with the oversight of the Kuwait Municipality in order to ensure that the services provided were safe and complied with the precautionary health measures set by the government. The delivery of requests by a number of fast-food restaurants was observed to be secure, and the delivery services were in compliance with precautionary health measures. In addition, assembly points within the areas were required to be covered, starting from 5 PM.

Furthermore, the monitoring and follow-up teams from the Kuwait Municipality have already begun their duties in assisting in the implementation of the decision to launch the aforementioned deliver services which are based on ensuring the high level of commitment that the restaurants have in adhering to the health measures and also in educating the workers on what to do and what to avoid so that they may avoid being subject to legal repercussions.  Furthermore, Al-Nasser stressed the importance that the restaurants should maintain a daily record of their workers stating their name, the time they clocked in for work, and also their temperature and vitals for that day as the Ministry will be asking for information regarding this prospect. The monitoring processes main focus in making sure that these institutions are in compliance with the measures set by the Municipality of Kuwait regarding the cleanliness of their working area and the adherence of health procedures during their opening hours.

Updates from the Philippine Embassy

In the Philippines, the Department of Health announced 285 new COVID-19 cases with seven additional deaths and seventy recoveries. It brings to a total tally of 7,579 cases with 501 fatalities and 862 recovered cases. Compared to yesterday’s report, the new number of cases increased.

The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait continues to the Filipino community in Kuwait, whose residence permits in the country have already expired, and Filipinos with absconding cases with the Kuwaiti Immigration to take advantage of the amnesty program of the government.

Those who fit these requirements are instructed to go to the following processing centers in Farwaniya on 26-30 April 2020, 8:00 AM-2:00 PM:

  • FEMALES: Farwaniya Primary School For Girls (Farwaniya, Block 1, Street 76)
  • MALES: Al Muthanna Primary School for Boys (Farwaniya, Block 1, Street 122)
Amnesty Application Reminder from the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait

OFWs who are currently residing in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and are affected by the lockdown in the area may proceed to the following processing centers until April 30, 2020; and Rufaida Al-Aslamiya Primary School for Girls (for females); 8:00 AM-2:00 PM: Naeem Bin Masoud Elementary School for Boys (for males)

Once approved, however, the amnesty grantees will no longer be allowed to leave the processing center. Thus it is advised that they collect all their belongings and finish any prior businesses before doing so. They will then be sent to a temporary shelter up until the time of their departure.

I would also like to thank the collective efforts of our volunteers in the Filipino community in Kuwait, who assisted in preparing 1,133 additional food relief packs delivered this week to our fellow Mahboula, which is still on lockdown.

These relief packages composed of canned goods, noodles, and kilos of rice to Filipinos. All of which were then delivered to different areas in the country. Areas covered for distribution include Hawally, Jabriyah, Farwaniya, Jleeb, Salmiyah, Salwa, Fahaheel, Mangaf, Fintas, Abu Halifah, and Jahra.  The locked-down areas such as Mahboula were assigned an organization by OWWA to distribute internally among Filipinos.

As our Muslim brothers and sisters all over the world come in unison to celebrate the Ramadan, those of us who are non-Muslims must always practice and exercise cultural and religious sensitivity as they persist in their fasting and prayers. This is in light of the rules set by the authorities of Kuwait during the Holy Month of Ramadan, which seeks to impose punishment upon individuals who are caught eating in public during the days of the Muslim fasting of Ramadan risk jailing and a fine, according to the law No. (44/1968), fast-breaking in public during this period is an offense punishable by a maximum of one month in prison or a fine of KD100 or one of these penalties.

 I wish to express my gratitude and admiration to the Filipino volunteer community who responded to the messages and calls of our fellow expatriates in need. I have so much respect for the generous and noble hearts of these men and women who never complained in packing thousands of food relief packages for countless hours just so that they can reach out to our Kababayans in Kuwait. Although there have been harsh complaints that have been vocalized by some O.F.W.’s in other areas due to the lack of response, it is essential to note that our volunteers do not receive any compensation for their charitable deeds and even have to pay for their own transportation and resources in helping deliver the packages. I ask for the patience of the displaced O.F.W.’s in Kuwait because, as things stand, the Philippine Embassy and its volunteers have hundreds of names and requests that they have to process daily and since specific locations are more densely populated than others, it takes time to sort out these names.

 I pray for the safety of our volunteers, the citizens of Kuwait and its authorities, as well as our Filipino brothers and sisters back home and abroad. Lastly, in light of the Holy Month of Ramadan, I encourage everyone to practice tolerance and patience towards our neighbors and fellowmen. Many thanks to the efforts of our Filipino and Kuwaiti donors, and may we continue to hold arms against the COVID-19 virus.

Ikaw ay hindi matatakot sa kakilabutan sa gabi, ni sa pana man na humihilagpos kung araw;Dahil sa salot na dumarating sa kadiliman, ni dahil sa paggiba man na sumisira sa katanghaliang tapat.

Mga Awit 91:5, 6

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Author

  • Gracia Amor, A Multi-Award winner blogger; Presidential Award; Mass Media Advocacy Award, Philippine Expat Blog Award, and Most Outstanding Balikbayan Award. An OFW and Investment Literacy Advocate. Her first book, the Global Filipino Bloggers OFW Edition, reviewed and launched at Philippine Embassy Kuwait. Became a certified Registered Financial Planner of the Philippines (RFP), with specialization in Stock Market. Currently, a position PH stock trader in PSE. Digital Marketing Specialist. A proud founder of Teachers Specialist Org in Kuwait TSOK, Filipino Bloggers in Kuwait FBK. A Poet and a Photo hobbyist in between.

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