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Living in times of fake news

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As we prepared for another lockdown, and everyone worried about what the next few weeks would bring, we needed, above all, reliable news sources to help us understand the restrictions, what to expect and what to prepare for.

Unfortunately, in an age of social media and misinformation, it is not always easy to get reliable news. We see more examples of this every day.

Unfortunately, this is something that we will have to grapple with in the future and something that we need to tone down. It’s harder for the masses to wade through conflicting news sources and see what’s real and what’s wrong. Most of the time, when they read something online, they believe it is true.

We saw this last week because of fake news spreading on social media linking vaccinations to Ayuda. Because of this widespread rumor, people rushed to the vaccine sites in droves, throwing social distancing warnings to the wind just to get their shots. These massive super-spreader events will be a problem when it comes to containing the virus and the deadly new Delta variant.

After all, close contact with hundreds of unvaccinated people outside your home is the opposite of what the lockdown is supposed to achieve. And worst of all, we won’t see the effects of these events for a few weeks. The delta variant takes about five days to manifest. Many people won’t even notice it right away because the symptoms aren’t as severe and noticeable as the original strain of COVID.

So all people who wanted to get vaccinated could potentially go home and infect their entire household and all of the people they work with. This will lead to the mass spread of the virus, which the quarantine prevented. I think we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the next few weeks.

Fake news is an ongoing problem on social media, especially in the Philippines, where rumors are spreading like wildfire. Right now in election year. We will see that besides rumors and honest mistakes that internet users share because they believe they are true, even more malicious fake news emerges. Now, more than ever, we need to be careful about believing and ultimately sharing what we read online.

At the moment it is understandably very exhausting. In addition to worrying about the new Delta variant, rising cases and overcrowded hospitals and COVID-19 wards, we also need to pay attention to the news we receive and everything we share with us on social media. The best bet for people is to consume news from trusted sources and treat everything else with caution until confirmed.

We will not make progress in lowering our numbers and stepping up our vaccination efforts if we are not on the same side and we cannot be on the same side if we all believe different things. Fortunately, last week’s fake news was quickly corrected, but the damage was already done. Until Friday the queues at the vaccination sites were more manageable and hopefully what happened on Thursday won’t happen again.

At the same time, however, we must not let this deter us from our vaccination efforts. Hopefully more and more Filipinos understand that vaccination is still our best way to go. We need to carefully and safely keep the vaccination campaign aggressive and on the move. We all need to do our part and get vaccinated.

Right now we need to be extremely careful and focus on our families and our safety. We are in the first week of our lockdown, and even with these new strict regulations, we still expect the number of cases to rise. Things get harder before they get better, but we can’t be discouraged because the only way to get through it is to get through it. For now, we need to stay home, practice all of our safety protocols, and do our best to keep going.

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Fake news is a big problem, but the topic that was highlighted in the news last week is also worrying. People flocked to vaccination centers believing vaccines were linked to receiving Ayuda during quarantine. While this has been proven wrong, the sheer volume of concerned citizens only shows how many people are in need during these troubled times.

Now is the time to help those who need it most. Our government can go through lockdown after lockdown, but it cannot leave people unaided. Especially now, when jobs are affected and families have a hard time getting the bare minimums and bringing food to the table.

The harsh reality is that many Filipinos cannot afford to stay home because they need to find a way to look after their families. After sorting through the fake vaccine news, hopefully the government can focus on what is really important and so will offer help and Ayuda to Filipinos during these troubled times.

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