Hyderabad: The first coronavirus positive case in Hyderabad has scared the city’s residents. Unclear of what to do, or whether this was even possible, they circulated messages and videos about the virus on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. Many were accurate, even helpful; some were wildly misleading.
On Twitter, coronavirus was the top hashtag for much of the day. Facebook posts on it were popular. According to Sharechat, people from TS and AP had been active, creating over 20,000 posts in Telugu.
A popular “advisory” on WhatsApp called for not playing Holi next week. It had a hint of xenophobia: “Please note CORONA VIRUS is very harmful and generous for our life (sic) [...] HOLI festival is coming and most of colour ballons (sic) and all products are made of china products [...]” One claimed coronavirus was a “biological weapon” created by China. Another read, “We never realised even death would be made in China”.
There was much rumour-mongering. One message claimed the patient who tested positive at Gandhi Hospital used one of general bathrooms in that hospital. The rumour became popular enough for an online Telugu news website to run it as a story, claiming that the patient had infected someone else in the hospital.
And conspiracies: a message by a “Taiwan expert” said people could self-diagnose by holding their breath for 10 seconds; if they were successful, they were not infected. In the same message, “Japanese doctors” advise people to drink water, claiming this would flush down the virus in the mouth into the stomach where the “acid will kill it.” None were attributed to “experts.” Some claimed the confirmed case in Hyderabad was a lie altogether. In a residents association’s WhatsApp group, a person claimed, “lab reports from Pune are yet to confirm the diagnosis.” (The health minister had announced that the samples were sent to Pune, where they tested positive.)