Canada must ‘immunize’ public against misinformation before COVID-19 vaccine arrives: Tam

Canada’s chief public health doctor says in the age of social media, fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading faster than the virus itself.

Dr. Theresa Tam says all Canadians must play a role in not letting false facts destroy the collective effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

That means they should not share information online that they have not verified as accurate.

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“We’ve been working on various fronts, including looking at social media platforms in terms of combating mis-and-disinformation,” Tam said, adding that the country needed to “immunize the population” against misinformation before the vaccine arrives.

“We as a collective public health system, have tried through various means to provide information like these press briefings are web websites, guidance, et cetera. But we are aware, of course, that misinformation, this information exists,” Tam said.

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There have been a number of false claims being spread about the Canadian pandemic effort in recent days, including one accusing the government of establishing COVID “confinement camps” and another alleging the government was planning to eliminate all personal debts, including mortgages and personal loans.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there are people trying to undermine credible sources on the pandemic and create chaos in democracies.

He says Canadians should look for multiple sources on information they read online, and should verify public health advice given on official websites for public health agencies.

— With files from Emerald Bensadoun

© 2020 The Canadian Press