The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has dismissed as fake a post that has been widely circulated on social media and social messaging platforms, purporting to share instructions from His Holiness for treating COVID-19 infections.
“We want to make it absolutely clear that there is no basis to it,” said a senior official from the Dalai Lama’s office, which is based in Dharamsala in northern India. “It’s unfortunate that such baseless rumors are being spread unnecessarily. Please let all concerned know that His Holiness did not give such an advice.” (Phayul)
The widely shared post exposed as fake claimed that the Tibetan spiritual leader was accumulating a special mantra and that consuming black tea would treat infections of the novel coronavirus, which has become a pandemic, causing widespread disruption and panic around the world.
At the time of writing on Wednesday, global novel coronavirus infections were reported to total 198,004, with 7,948 deaths so far confirmed. While the outbreak first emerged as an epidemic in China, the majority of coronavirus infections and fatalities have now occurred outside of mainland China, which has reported a death toll of 3,241 people, and a total of 81,074 infections, according to official data from the Chinese health authorities. COVID-19 is believed to have first spread from an illegal wildlife market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, in central Hubei Province. The World Health Organization has provisionally estimated the mortality rate from the virus at 3–4 per cent, with the elderly and people with underlying health conditions considered most at risk.*
India has so far reported 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three deaths.
Numerous experts and medical professionals around the world have cautioned the public against being mislead by rumors and fake news being disseminated over social media platforms, which can lead to panic and exacerbate health risks for the general public. These include hoaxes, exaggerated claims about the spread or effects of the novel coronavirus, as well as alleged remedies, cures, and preventative measures against COVID-19.
“Compared to real news, fake news tends to include information that is more surprising, upsetting, or geared to trigger anger or anxiety. Any information that fits that—and a lot of coronavirus news can—should be double checked,” cautioned Jeff Hancock, a professor of communication in Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences and founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab. “It’s important to check health-related information from established news sources rather than from shared stories in social media. A subscription to any reputable news organization is highly recommended, though many news sites are offering free access to coronavirus related news.” (Stanford News)
The northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, home to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan government-in-exile, and the official residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on Sunday announced the implementation of strategic measures aimed at limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus, with gatherings of four or more persons now banned. The Kashag, the executive wing of the CTA, has canceled all travel plans and workshops for officials. The CTA has also called on Buddhist monasteries and schools in the region to close for a month and urged the local Tibetan population to cancel public gatherings, including religious events and wedding ceremonies.
On Tuesday, the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama announced that the main Tibetan Buddhist temple in Dharamsala, Tsuglhakhang, the official residence of His Holiness in northern India, would be closed to the public until at least 14 April to mitigate coronavirus-related risks.** The news followed an announcement at the end of January by a representative of the office that public audiences with His Holiness were to be suspended until further notice as a precaution.***
* Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 46 (World Health Organization)
** Tsuglhakhang Temple in Dharamsala to Close Over Coronavirus Risk (Buddhistdoor Global)
*** Audiences with Dalai Lama Halted Over Coronavirus Risk (Buddhistdoor Global)
COVID-19 treatment instructions by Dalai Lama is fake news says senior official (Phayul)
People’s uncertainty about the novel coronavirus can lead them to believe misinformation, says Stanford scholar (Stanford News)
The coronavirus fake news pandemic sweeping WhatsApp (Politico)
Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)