Panic and Criticism Spread on Chinese Social Media Over Coronavirus

The videos often lack crucial identifying information, including when they were filmed, but many have spread rapidly in recent days among Chinese internet users in the absence of more official information. The state-run has largely played down the crisis, focusing instead on the encouragement of government officials and the heroism of medical workers. Only a few news outlets have reported critically on the handling of the outbreak by the health care system and the government.

In the vacuum, misinformation has flourished. One article claimed to cite a health expert as recommending that people counter the virus by rinsing their mouths with salt water, but the expert never said it and the tactic is ineffective. Another widely read but completely false claimed that setting off fireworks would sterilize germs in the air.

China’s National Health Commission even went so far as to debunk popular saying that drinking a traditional Chinese medicine herb known as indigowoad root, mixed with smoked vinegar, could prevent infection by the coronavirus.

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