Coronavirus rumors trigger irrational behaviors among Chinese netizens

By Chen Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/1 14:12:40

Shuanghuanglian oral liquid

In the face of China’s resolute battle against the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak that has caused over 11,000 confirmed cases of infections and 259 deaths nationwide, millions of Chinese people have been quarantined during the Spring Festival holidays. At the same time, rumormongering on social media platforms triggered irrational behavior among netizens as the research on effective counter-virus treatment is still ongoing. 

A report by the Xinhua News Agency on Friday night claimed Chinese patent medicine, Shuanghuanglian oral liquid, containing three herbal ingredients, is effective in containing the novel coronavirus infection, citing the latest joint research between Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica under Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wuhan Institute of Virology. The news was also reported by People’s Daily soon after. It emerged as the most searched topic on Chinese Twitter-like Weibo. People rushed to purchase the medicine online and offline, resulting in it to go off the shelves in quick succession. 

Pictures circulating on social media showed residents queuing up in front of pharmacies late-night braving the chilly weather to purchase Shuanghuanglian oral liquid. Some netizens even comforted each other when they found the drugs have been all sold out, planning another try in the early morning. 

However, the People’s Daily published a contrasting report Saturday morning, urging people not to rush to purchase Shuanghuanglian oral liquid, as there is no specific anti-viral treatment recommended against coronavirus infection so far. Besides, research for treatment measures is still ongoing but it is yet to pass clinical trials. 

It also cautioned the public against consuming drugs without proper physician guidance.  

During the coronavirus outbreaks, frenzy rumors accompanied the epidemic causing social panic. Some Chinese netizens mocked themselves recalling the different instances when they rushed to buy different medical devices since the virus outbreak, ranging from masks to disinfectant to rice, gloves and even ultraviolet lamps. Some netizens said they have been spending hours online to dig out useful information about effective anti-virus measures.  

Some analysts suggested rumors and the subsequent panic are more dangerous than the epidemic itself as disinformation often strikes the emotional chord and people are vulnerable to incorrect judgments at such critical times. 

Fatuous rumors claiming Corona beer as a medium of this virus resulted in some netizens asking for refunds from the beer company on Twitter.  

“Calm down and give a second thought when it comes to believing different information online,” a Beijing-based resident Simon told the Global Times Saturday. The first thing I have been doing every day during these holidays is rebutting rumors in various family WeChat groups, as middle-aged and elderly groups are more likely to believe in online rumors. 


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