China announces censorship crackdown to remove Covid ‘rumours’ from internet

The cyber authorities of China are set to censor social media to ensure that “rumours” regarding the pandemic do not create “gloomy sentiments” on the platforms during the lunar new year festival. The decision of censorship crackdown comes after it was estimated by health forecasting firm Airfinity that more than 600,000 people have lost their lives since the government suddenly lifted zero-Covid restrictions in December. 

The “Spring Festival online improvement” programme, which will continue for a month, will target accounts which are considered spreading “rumours” about Covid and the experiences of the patient by the authorities. 

The national cyber administration stated “in-depth rectification of false information and other issues to prevent gloomy sentiments”. 

The administration specifically mentioned the probe and punishment of “online rumours related to the epidemic” and “fabricating patient experiences”, along with sharing or producing fake virus treatments. As per the announcement, the work would “prevent misleading the public and causing social panic”.

The social media platform is filled with personal stories of citizens who had contracted Covid, their struggle to source healthcare or medication, or their loss of close ones due to the disease. 

As per the health officials, the wave of current infections has peaked, however, they further warned that the infections may spread further in the wake of millions of people travelling across the country during the lunar new year. 

Independent forecaster Airfinity on Thursday stated that the new modelling has increased estimates of fatalities and infections in China. 

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The forecast of the organisation of two successive infection waves has been changed to one, which is “more severe and larger”. 

“Deaths are forecast to peak at 36,000 a day on the 26th of January during the Lunar New Year Festival. This is up from our previous estimate of deaths peaking at 25,000 a day,” the organisation stated.

“The implication of one larger wave as opposed to two smaller ones is increased pressure on hospitals and crematoriums and therefore also potentially a higher case fatality ratio,” it added. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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