With the amount of misinformation related to COVID-19 on the rise governments around the world and health officials have been continuously highlighting the importance of following verified sources for latest updates. Since World Health Organization is the authorized body to comment officially on the status of the COVID-19, public have been closely following the guidelines and status alerts published by WHO.
In this backdrop, we noticed a message shared by multiple Facebook users, pages and groups with the following narrative. “ශ්රී ලංකාව නව කොරෝනා වයිරසයට එරෙහි සටනේදී ගන්නා ක්රියාමාර්ග ප්රමාණවත් නැහැ’ – ලෝක සෞඛ්ය සංවිධානය” translated to English as “Sri Lanka’s actions against novel Coronavirus are not sufficient – World Health Organization”
We noticed a report from a website which could have been the cause for such posts which carried the same headline as below.
However, the article stressed on a warning given by World Health Organization against implications of ‘community transmission’, amid rising coronavirus cases in South East Asia. Hence, we decided to fact check whether such a statement indeed was given by WHO.
Through Google News search and browsing through main stream media reports, we were not able to find any statement from WHO stating that the steps taken by Sri Lankan authorities were inadequate to fight against COVID-19.
However, using a keyword search, we noticed that most of these claims originated based on a statement made by the WHO South-East Asia Regional Director Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh where she had mentioned that the region should “urgently scale-up aggressive measures” to stem the spread of COVID-19. She had stated that Sri Lanka along with several others countries as Thailand, Indonesia, India, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan as nations with risk of ‘community transmission’ of the virus.
Below is the official WHO statement WHO South-East Asia Regional Director Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh.
When we inspected the daily reported cases from countries like Thailand (60) and Indonesia (38) over last few days also we noticed that the numbers were comparatively higher than the number of cases reported in Sri Lanka where the rate at which cases of COVID-19 are getting reported per day is still in single digits.
To ascertain if any country specific statement was made by WHO, we contacted WHO Sri Lanka and learnt that such a statement targeting Sri Lanka was never made and even the above comment by Regional Director was made while highlighting the concern over the entire APAC which has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in 8 out of the 11 countries, including Sri Lanka.
From our investigation we conclude that WHO never made a statement claiming that Sri Lanka’s actions against novel Coronavirus are not adequate. A statement made by APAC regional director highlighting the concern over the entire APAC which has seen an increase in 8 out of the 11 countries, including Sri Lanka, has been misinterpreted as WHO blaming Sri Lanka for inadequate action in fighting COVID-19.
Title:WHO did not Snub Sri Lanka Citing Inadequate Measures in Response to COVID-19 PandemicFact Check By: Sathyajith Subasinghe