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Covid-19 origins tracing: Mudslinging unhelpful, says Zimbabwean expert

HARARE, (The Southern African Times) – Global pandemics are not solved through politicking, and nations must work together to find solutions to the threat posed by the current pandemic, an expert has said. 

Dr Stanley Tsarwe, a health communication expert and academic at the University of Zimbabwe told this publication that the diplomatic tiff caused by the United States of America’s Covid-19 “origins tracing” fronted by its intelligence community in a predetermined effort to blame China for political reasons, was unhelpful.

“What we expect is that these two nations work together, and provide solutions to a problem that has already reached the levels of a monster,” Dr Tsarwe said. 

“Global pandemics are not solved through politicking,” he explained. 

China early this year opened up to a study by the World Health Organisation in China where experts at the world body concluded that the disease could have been originated and transmitted in a number of ways. 

One of these possibilities is the so-called accidental laboratory leak, which the experts dismissed amid some reports that had claimed that poor handling at a scientific research centre n China’s Wuhan city was responsible for a disastrous leak. 

However, the US has doubled down on this claim and President Joe Biden last May gave his intelligence community a task to corroborate it.

The report by the intelligence community is expected at the end of this month.

Dr Tsarwe cautioned that the US was embarking on a campaign of disinformation and that global governments and citizens should be wary.

“Disinformation is a mixture of very convincing and sometimes factual information that is laced with hard to detect subtle lies,” Dr Tsarwe said.

“It is basically a form of propaganda. Governments wishing to fight disinformation have a tough responsibility to counter it through the provision of factual, evidence-based and credible information.” 

Dr Tsarwe said normally, new information would assist in crafting a global response to the pandemic. 

This, however, appears not to be the case in light of the politicking by the US.

“Any change in strategy to the global response to covid 19 will only happen if there is new evidence directing science to new response models. For now, the current response seems to be the best option this far.”

Tackling disinformation

There is likely to be a glut of disinformation that will follow the US’ contrived intelligence report.

This means that various strategies will be required to counter the disinformation and protect citizens.

“In fighting disinformation, just as they do in public relations toclear bad publicity in organisations, governments should never beseen as trying to counter accusations for the mere sake of it,” Dr Tsarwe stated.

“They must fight disinformation by stating credible, solid andscientific positions.

“Unfortunately there are few ways of dealing with disinformationother than just being sincere and factual. Anything beyond simplefacts is disastrous and can be counter-productive,” said the expert.

It is widely understood that the US seeks to leverage the propaganda regarding origins tracing to draw attention away from its poor handling of the pandemic leading to the country recording the world’s most infections and death.

Experts say a campaign of disinformation or infodemic run by the notorious intelligence apparatus of the US, will likely jeopardise gains recorded in the fight against the pandemic. 

Last year, the World Health Organisation noted that infodemics  “spread like wildfire”. 

“They create a breeding ground for uncertainty,” WHO said. 

“Uncertainty in turn fuels skepticism and distrust, which is the perfect environment for fear, anxiety, finger-pointing, stigma, violent aggression and dismissal of proven public health measures — which can lead to loss of life.”

Analysts fear that this is exactly what the US is seeking to achieve, which could lead to a catastrophe.

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