Councillor calls on Brummies to end COVID-19 “fake news” and “conspiracy theories”
A Birmingham councillor has released a video message urging the city’s Pakistani community to stop the spread of “fake news” around coronavirus.
Warning about the dangers of sharing and spreading false COVID-19 information across social media platforms, Cllr Waseem Zaffar has suggested unverified and inaccurate information about the virus is putting lives at risk.
Representing the Lozells ward – a coronavirus hotspot which has infection rates of more than 400 per 100,000 residents – the councillor released the public safety message online to challenge what he describes as “dangerous” and “incorrect” information being shared by a small minority of people within the more vulnerable areas of Birmingham.
“If someone sends you a video on WhatsApp, Facebook or social media, it does not mean that it’s true,” he said.
Cllr Zaffar urged people to protect themselves, and the community, from the very real threat posed by the current COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed the lives of millions around the world.
“There is a lot of fake news and incorrect information being spread in our community. I request you to stop this. Coronavirus has created major difficulties for our community and the entire world,” he added.
Cllr Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment, presents the video in Mirpuri, his “mother tongue” and a dialect spoken by the vast majority of Birmingham’s Pakistani-Kashmiri disapora.
Commissioned by Birmingham City Council and produced in partnership with Citizens UK and Saathi House, the community campaign aims to raise awareness about the proliferation of unsubstantiated and unregulated COVID-19 “misinformation”, which Zaffar believes is having a negative impact on public health.
The councillor also praised those who are tacking the necessary steps to safeguard themselves and the community, but was critical of members of the community ignoring COVID-19 safety rules and endangering others.
“The vast majority of people are making huge sacrifices and adhering to the government rules on coronavirus.
“However, there is a minority who are ignoring these government rules.”
In the video, Cllr Zaffar shares core steps and measures recommended by the government to combat the spread of the pandemic.
Among them an appeal to the community to carry out basic prevention measures such as the washing of hands and the wearing of face masks.
“I plea and request you to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds as often as possible; washing your hands as per the government and public health guidance.
“Wherever you are, please wear a face mask or face coverings. Whether you are in a shop, supermarket, on the bus, wherever you are, please wear a face mask or any face covering.”
He also stressed the importance of the 2 metre social distancing rule “whether you are inside or outside”.
Social distancing is especially challenging for the Pakistani community due to cultural dynamics where some families live “in multigenerational households with grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren living together,” he explains.
He goes on to advise people to continue this observance inside their homes and also when going out.
“If someone, particularly someone elderly is watching TV, try to stay a distance away from them in the other room. Utilise all the space in your house to socially distance,” he said.
Sharing his concerns about people who ignore and abuse the current COVID-19 guidelines, he added: “Many elders in the community are hearing this fake news about coronavirus and ignoring the guidance and living a normal life”.
The video is part of a series to help raise awareness among Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in Birmingham and the West Midlands, who are disproportionately affected by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Public Health England found people from these groups are most likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, and death rates were highest among people of Black and South Asian heritage.
Individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds have a greater risk of death from COVID-19 than white people due to demographic, geographical and socioeconomic factors such as living arrangements and jobs.
Despite this catastrophic insight, Cllr Zaffar has expressed shock that some members of the South Asian community are still in denial about the tragic impact of COVID-19.
“Coronavirus has led to the death of many. Many are in hospital in severe difficulty.”
“There is a lot of fake news being spread about coronavirus and the vaccine. The world’s scientists are all working away to bring forward a vaccination.”
“Whilst there is positive news about the vaccine, it will only come once a variety of government agencies and public health approve the vaccine.
“Before a vaccine has been approved, spreading fake news about it is wholly inappropriate and this is damaging our community.”
According the Cllr Zaffar, the misinformation about the pandemic and the vaccine has led to “difficulties” with stress placed upon the NHS and growing uncertainty in the community as people share unconfirmed information across social media platforms.
In the video message, he encourages the community to promote “the positive and official government guidelines and the information being shared by doctors. Protect yourselves and your community.”
Cllr Zaffar hopes the public health video alert will inspire the city’s Pakistani-Kashmiri community to take the necessary steps to help halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus and “challenge those spreading fake news”.
Birmingham City Council has launched similar videos in a variety of community languages including English, Urdu, Shona, Tigrinya, Somali and Ndebela, in partnership with organisations representing different minority ethnic residents and communities living in the city.
WATCH | Cllr Zaffar’s message about the dangers of COVID-19 fake news: