Posted: Sun 1st Nov 2020

First Minister blasts those involved in spreading ‘cruel and deliberate deception’ about coronavirus online

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Sunday, Nov 1st, 2020

The First Minister has condemned those involved in spreading “cruel and deliberate deception” on coronavirus after expressing concerns that vulnerable people could be worried or drawn into conspiracy theories online.

A survey of people in Wales shows 37% of the public are worried about misinformation about Covid-19, and 52% don’t feel confident in understanding the figures of deaths and cases.

There has also been a sharp increase in the number of conspiracy and “scamdemic” theories being shared online in recent months.

At Friday’s Welsh Government briefing First Minister Mark Drakeford was asked if he felt the fight against coronavirus was just as important as the fight against disinformation.

Mr Drakeford replied: “One of the big differences I think between this part of the year and earlier in the year is that some people have made it their business to try to mislead people about coronavirus, to spread pernicious lies.

“These things that you see, when people pretend that coronavirus isn’t a real thing, pretend that it is just a mild illness that does nobody any harm and want to somehow persuade people that all of this is just some sort of sham.”

“Now, when people hear things like that, I understand why people feel they must pause for thought.

“What I do want to say to people is that all of that is a cruel and deliberate deception. None of that will resonate in the minds of the 60 families who have lost somebody in just this one week.

“We will continue as a Welsh Government to put out information which is as reliable, as up to date and as informative as we can.

“We’ll do it here in this way, week after week and we will try to make sure that people who need sources of information which they can rely upon, get that from Welsh Government and from the Welsh NHS and other sources that you can trust here in Wales.

“I just urge people not to be misled, not to think that people who peddle these stories that are so far from the truth, have anything to offer you or the rest of us here in Wales.”

Later that day during a Q&A with north Wales media, the First Minister was asked how much damage coronavirus deniers cause in stopping the spread of the virus.

He was also asked why he thinks there are groups out there that are adopting these views.

Mr Drakeford said: “The internet is on the whole, I think an enormous force for good, and has transformed our lives in so many ways.

“But, it has undoubtedly licensed some people who are either just so vulnerable to, or are somehow seduced by conspiracy theories of all sorts.

“They just spread in a different way, don’t they? Because you think of the Kennedy assassination, that’s been a 50 year and longer set of conspiracy theories about how that happened, and who was involved in all that sort of stuff.

“For a long time it circulated amongst a relatively small number of people because you couldn’t with a press of a button, tell thousands and thousands of people about your rather unusual idea.

“We live in an era in which people can do that so easily and I do think it has a bad effect. I think there are vulnerable people out there who get worried by it and get drawn into it.

“I don’t minimise the harm at all because I think the harm is real, and it’s the most vulnerable people who are the most harmed by it.”

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