With the pandemic, conspiracy theories are doing rounds at an alarming rate.while in Pakistan such theories have spread even more. This week the total number of confirmed cases crossed 7 million, with nearly half a million deaths worldwide. the virus is spreading exponentially and in developing countries, like Pakistan experts claim the number of cases to be much higher than the official figure, since adequate testing facilities are not available, allowing fewer people to be tested. The Prime Minister of the country, Imran khan in a recent address to the nation warned, the cases may reach to a new peak by the end of next month, as many people are not following sops and consider covid 19 a myth. Conspiracy theories are finding wider acceptance, dictating public behavior in a direction that would prove detrimental. With the pandemic, conspiracy theories are doing rounds at an alarming rate. In the early stages U.S and Chinese officials accused each other of being the originator of the virus, along the path Bill Gates became the center of these theories — while in Pakistan such theories have spread even more, with some thinking the corona virus “a Jewish propaganda” yet others are suspicious, if it’s their government doings to get donations from international organizations. Rumors of patients in quarantine getting poisonous injections on the grounds of the later suspicion, has left many scared to undergo testing and intervention at public healthcare facilities.
These theories are baseless yet widespread leading the population down a dangerous trajectory, like many other diseases that spread from animals to humans (Zoonotic disease, measles, HIV etc) Covid-19 is real and scientists are working day and night to make a vaccine. Thus for now we have to shun these conspiracies and act responsibly to protect ourselves, by being cautious and following covid 19 guidelines, which I am sure do not bite. Following discussion will elaborate this point further as we try to deconstruct the widespread conspiracy theories According to a research published in Nature Medicine “It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus. The RBD (Receptor binding domain, the part of virus that helps it attach to human cells) of SARS-CoV-2 is optimized for binding to human ACE2 with an efficient solution, which is different from those previously predicted. Furthermore, if genetic manipulation had been performed, one of the several reverse-genetic systems available for betacoronaviruses would probably have been used. However, the genetic data from the virus irrefutably shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from any previously used virus backbone”. Thus it’s not made in a laboratory, besides if any such misadventure the perpetrator would naturally have to make an antidote first to ensure safety of its own people, and could withstand the economic ramifications the act accompanies. Outbreak happens when a virus that is common in an animal undergoes changes and passes to humans. This is likely how the new corona-virus came to be, a zoonotic disease. But why do a considerable portion of the society believe in conspiracy theories? Professor Viren Swami a professor of social Psychology, thinks that in any calamity people search for explanations and normally the easiest of answers are adapted much quicker to set a target for counter narrative, the same was the case with conspiracy theories around covid 19. Humans by nature do not like to be kept in dark and thus a greater portion of the public not educated enough in biological sciences, thus naturally would adapt answers that they can easily understand and absorb. Some researchers have also attributed conspiracies with lower levels of education and analytical thinking. This has led the people, including the educated lot, to undermine the threat of this pandemic resulting in an uncontrolled spread, with the death toll surged to a record new in the country.
Government on the other hand sent out mixed signals, with their non-serious attitude and lack of clarity regarding a proper response, adding further to the confusion of the masses. At the very early stages of the disease in the country, the shite pilligrims from Iran were mishandled as the government couldn’t provide facilities to quarantine centers at the border. Government since the start was confused as to the efficacy of lockdowns, and tried to educate the public that such an action would destroy the nation’s fragile economy. Finally, when the government did impose a lockdown, there was a very strong backlash from the industrial sector. Within weeks the focus of the government shifted from the health challenges to economic challenges, which according to the PM was more serious than covid 19. The government terribly failed to bring religious groups to take the lockdown seriously out of fear of backlash grounded in religion. Finally the lock down was eased completely despite health professional’s advising to the contrary. On numerous occasions doctors went on to arrange press conferences, asking the government to provide personal protection equipment to the front-line healthcare professionals. The government feigned ignorance, and mishandled the situation. Thus many front line health professionals have lost their lives, at a comparably higher rate. There is a fear that doctors and other health professionals may get infected with multiple strains of the virus thus making the disease even more deadly for them.