President Tommy Remengesau Jr. urged the public not to spread misleading information, especially on social media, amid conflicting statements from health officials and his office on how to handle the messaging on the coronavirus.
“Our greatest enemy is not the virus itself, but the fear we create by perpetuating rumors and falsehoods,”
Remengesau said in a statement Sunday following the negative test results for the first person under investigation case of Covid-19.
“This is a time for our community and nation to show its resilience – to demonstrate the strength of our community ties, to support each other, and to be aware and proactive in practicing personal hygiene.”
He added that the public should refer to the Ministry of Health (MOH) for “guidance and announcements when seeking information on the virus.”
The specimen from the patient was sent to Taiwan for testing last week. The public was first informed of the negative results on Saturday afternoon following a Facebook post from Taiwan Ambassador to Palau, Wallace Chow.
The MOH official statement on the negative result was only released a few hours after Ambassador Chow’s post.
MOH COVID-19 Liaison Officer Mr. Gaafar Uherbelau in a videoconference with the media on Saturday night.
Uherbelau apologized to the media for the delayed statement coming from the MOH but explained that the information was released via the FB post even before the MOH and the patient was officially informed.
“The protocol is that it’s supposed to be secure communication between lab and lab. In confirmatory testing the laboratory should consult with requesting lab, that is what we are waiting for. As much as possible we wanted to follow the protocol especially pertaining to patients,” he said.
Uherbelau said while MOH wanted to follow the protocol, “unfortunately” the information was released before the patient knew of the results.
He also said that MOH, following protocol would have wanted to inform the patient first, the US embassy since the patient is a US citizen before making an official announcement of the result.
Uherbelau said that MOH would continue to work with the Office of the President “and all stakeholders to ensure clear and consistent communication and information dissemination.”
He also asked the media’s help to “encourage our leaders to exercise patience and not to jump the gun because the public needs them as role models to help them get through this.”
The patient was released from the hospital to her family shortly after official report from Taiwan lab was received on Sunday. Results from CDC office in Hawaii is expected sometime this week according to Mr. Uherbelau from the Ministry of Health. (Bernadette Carreon)