Social media pranksters are being warned that they can face up to one month in jail for spreading false information to cause panic in the wake of the covid19 pandemic.
A statement from the police reminded that it was a criminal offence under the Summary Offences Act to send a false message for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to any other person.
If convicted, an offender is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $200 or to imprisonment for one month.
In a separate statement, the government also warned the public about sharing false information about covid19 which can cause unnecessary anxiety and panic.
Government said to date the only certified lab, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has tested 63 samples for the coronavirus in TT and only two cases have been confirmed.
In light of all the paranoia generated through false social media posts, government is appealing for people to be responsible and to stop creating and spreading disinformation.
In a statement, Communications Minister Donna Cox noted since the emergence of covid19 there have been several attempts to deliberately create and/or share false information about the virus in TT on social media.
“This can lead to unnecessary panic and fear among the population. Disinformation undermines public health efforts to keep TT safe,” she said.
Cox said the government will continue to be open and transparent about its efforts to combat the spread of the virus and reminded citizens to visit the websites of the Ministries of Health and Communication for verified sources of information at www.health.gov.tt moc.gov.tt, news.gov.tt.
Candice Alcantara of the Ministry of Health also urged the public from sharing false and misleading information about covid19.
She referred to several messages advising patients on protocols for reporting to the ministry, to not go to the hospital but call certain hotlines and a team will be sent to the caller’s home were not issued by the ministry of health.
The ministry is continuing to advise citizens if they are experiencing flu like symptoms and have recently travelled outside of TT, or have come into close contact with someone who has travelled internationally, to self-quarantine and call their nearest public health facility, which are available on www.health.gov.tt or via directory assistance at 6411.
The South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) has also advised customers to avoid calling their toll free 87-SWRHA number which is being advertised through social media platforms as a number to call if they have a question or concern about covid19.
SWRHA’s communications manager Kevon Gervais said that toll free customer service hotline does exist but it only manages and accept customer feedback on service delivery challenges and improvement recommendations.
“It is not an authorised document from SWRHA. We are in the process of determining where that document would have emanated and how it is now out there for public consumption. While the number is our number we would not have authorised the release of such document.”
As a result of the number being placed in the public, he said the volume of calls being received locally and even from outside of TT has overwhelmed the system.
Gervais said people who need to access the number for the purpose it was created are being denied the opportunity to do so and some management systems are being put in place to accommodate such people.