“Infodemic” and Emerging Issues through a Data Lens: The Case of China

Jinling Hua and Rajib Shaw 

Keio University

Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 202017(7), 2309 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) started spreading in December 2019 and was noticed in early January 2020. It started spreading in China in mid- to late-January. Among the different types of confusion and information challenges, we need to recognize that COVID-19 is first and foremost a humanitarian challenge [1]. As of 24 March, 2020, the virus has caused the death of over 16,600 people worldwide with more than 380,000 people are confirmed as infected by it, of which more than 10,000 are serious. As many as 184 out of 195 countries are affected. 
Solving the humanitarian challenge is the key priority through proper preventive measures to stop its spread, as well as curative measure to develop a vaccine. The impact of this public health emergency has affected countries and communities in terms of economic, socio-psychological issues, as well as international relations.
“We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic”, said WHO Director–General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the Munich Security Conference on 15 February 2020. WHO Information Network for Epidemics (EPI-WIN) was launched as a new information platform after WHO declared COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The goal was to share customized information with specific target groups [2].
Finally, on 11th March, WHO declared it this as a pandemic.
“We know that every outbreak will be accompanied by a kind of tsunami of information, but also within this information you always have misinformation, rumors, etc. We know that even in the Middle Ages there was this phenomenon. “But the difference now with social media is that this phenomenon is amplified, it goes faster and further, like the viruses that travel with people and go faster and further. So it is a new challenge, and the challenge is the [timing] because you need to be faster if you want to fill the void...What is at stake during an outbreak is making sure people will do the right thing to control the disease or to mitigate its impact. So it is not only information to make sure people are informed; it is also making sure people are informed to act appropriately.” Said Sylvie Briand, Director of Infectious Hazards Management at WHO’s Health Emergencies Program and architect of WHO’s strategy to counter the infodemic risk.
This poses the real challenge of mitigating the risk occurring from Coronavirus.