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New Zealand’s health minister has pleaded with people to stop spreading misinformation about the coronavirus, as the government struggles to contain a mini-cluster centred on an evangelical church in Auckland.
The mini-cluster started with four cases in the suburb of Mt Roskill last month, and has now grown to 45 cases.
Health authorities say they have struggled to isolate and lock down the cluster as some people have refused to co-operate, saying they do not believe in the virus, and will not share their close contacts
“Repeated, deliberate and malicious spread of misinformation” is also proliferating online, health minister Chris Hipkins said, prompting him to issue a stark warning that lives are at stake.
“We do have to accept the science,” the minister said.
“We just have to look at what is happening internationally where it has gotten out of control and deaths are a daily occurrence. We are very fortunate in New Zealand that because of efforts we’ve taken we’re not seeing that. What that means though is that some people are becoming more sceptical as time goes on.”
“The virus is very deadly and there is no vaccine for it.”
Pakilau Manase Lua is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church and told RNZ he regularly receives private messages from fellow church-goers casting doubt on on the seriousness of Covid-19.
“I’ve personally received lots of private messages regarding information that people think is useful but is purely disinformation, either about the virus itself or fear around the vaccine,”, Lura, who is also part of the Pacific response team in Auckland, said.
“It’s been spreading like wildfire through social media.”
The ministry of health has asked all 332 members of the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship to be retested for Covid-19, and so far 64% of members have complied, with the church’s minister urging co-operation.
Fines or punishment for failing to co-operate with authorities were not yet being considered, Hipkins said, because it could cause people to hide their symptoms or go underground.
However, if repeat offenders continued to spread misinformation in the community, punitive action may be an option.
Students at St Dominic’s Catholic College have had to be sent home and tested this week, after a member of the Mt Roskill church failed to disclose all their close contacts, and one, who tested positive, continued going to school.
Health authorities are investigating whether the non-disclosure was deliberate.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘Deliberate, malicious’: stop spreading Covid misinformation, says New Zealand minister | New Zealand