Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.
Within the past few months, the world has been hit with the greatest pandemic since the Spanish Flu of 100 years ago. As of April 7, more than 1.4 million cases of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have been reported in over 200 countries and territories around the world resulting in 81,049 deaths. This by far outpaces the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 which took over 18,000 lives.
The virus is spread mainly by person-to-person contact through viral particles ejected through the mouth by coughing, sneezing, laughing, singing, talking or simply breathing. People within about 6 feet can be infected if these particles reach their mouth, nose or eye. People may also contract COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface and then their face. It is most contagious when people are symptomatic, although spread may be possible before symptoms appear. The virus can survive on surfaces up to 72 hours. Time from exposure to onset of symptoms can last up to fourteen days, which is the recommended time for self isolation for anyone exposed or returning from abroad.
A new study, published in the medRXiv depository, found the virus can remain airborne for up to three hours and survive up to three days on plastic, stainless steel or other hard surfaces. A study published on March 18 in the New England Journal of Medicine found the virus also lasted up to four hours on copper and 24 hours on cardboard. A previous study, published in February, found COVID-19 could last, like SARS or MERS, for up to nine days on a hard surface.
The disease was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, and has since spread globally. Among the countries that have been hardest hit since then are Italy, Spain and the United States, which as of April 5 had registered 347,384 cases and 10,282 deaths. In Canada, we are not as seriously affected on a per capita basis as the United States, with 15,806 cases as of April 5 and 293 deaths, but that is no reason for complacency. Quebec is the most affected province with 7,944 cases and 94 deaths as of April 5, followed by Ontario with 4,347cases and 132 deaths, Alberta 1,250 cases and 23 deaths, and with and British Columbia with 1,203 cases and 38 deaths.
Governments on all levels have reacted with stringent emergency measures including the closure of all but essential services, orders to stay at home as much as possible and maintain physical distancing of two metres between persons when outside the home. As the economy grinds to a halt, many people in Canada and around the world are facing hardship. People cannot pay their bills, their rent or mortgages. The unemployment rate is skyrocketing as most businesses close down their doors. Again, all levels of government are responding with financial assistance that in numerical terms is unprecedented in the history of this country.
Throughout this crisis there is much disinformation being spread about this pandemic. Some of this comes from the usual crackpot sources, but much has been spread by rogue regimes seeking to get political mileage out of the world’s suffering. The Russian Federation has been especially guilty of this. On March 18, a leaked EU diplomatic report outlined 80 examples of disinformation from Russian sources in nearly two months up to March 16.
“Pro-Kremlin media outlets have been prominent in spreading disinformation about the coronavirus, with the aim to aggravate the public health crisis in western countries, specifically by undermining public trust in national healthcare systems,” stated the report.
This was corroborated on April 1 by a report released by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy. Entitled “COVID-19 as a Tool of Information Confrontation: Russia’s Approach”, it says that the Russian Federation is waging a war of disinformation by releasing fake news stories and propaganda blaming the west for creating and releasing COVID-19. According to Professor Sergey Sukhankin, the author of the report, the Russian narratives can be separated into three categories: simple, tricky and sophisticated.
The simple method uses basic language and straightforward arguments to reach the least informed of the Russian population by using biased media outlets, bloggers and, in some cases, first-hand accounts from Russians living in North America and the European Union, reported CTV News citing the report.
The tricky narrative relies on the spreading of elaborate conspiracy theories aimed to create a sense of distrust against the west. They’re doing so by using Russian outlets and information platforms to give “evidence” the virus was created in America in order to halt the economic growth of China.
The sophisticated method, meanwhile, is a far more elaborate example of propaganda, aimed at small circles outside Russia. Claims that the U.S. is destroying global efforts in fighting COVID-19 are being circulated citing the country’s decision to decrease its contributions to the World Health Organization and its $60 million outstanding debt to the organization.
So how to separate the truth from malicious disinformation? Watch and listen to the daily reports provided by our federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as recognized health experts. Follow those media outlets that have earned a reputation for accuracy and cross-checking their facts. Take any information spread on the internet and social media by unknown sources with a grain of salt. Even better, check the source through a Google search or similar means.
As for coping with this pandemic, follow the rules and guidelines set out by our governments. Stay indoors unless absolutely necessary. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Maintain physical distancing at all times. Help those most vulnerable by shopping for groceries for them or by performing similar acts of kindness. And, most of all, pray.
Face the fact that we are in this crisis stage for the long haul. It may last until the summer or beyond, but we cannot let our guard down until it has fully passed. But by adhering strictly to the guidelines that have been set down, and with the help of God, we will persevere.