TN Cops Stage ‘Comical’ Video on Lockdown, Experts Question

Doctors and experts in the field of health point out that it will only create more stigma around coronavirus.

2 min read
A still from the video, that tries to be comical.

On Friday, 24 April, the people of Tamil Nadu woke up to a video from Tiruppur district. Six youths riding triples on two bikes without masks and helmets were stopped by the police and questioned why they were outside during a lockdown. Unsatisfied with their answers the police led them to an 'ambulance'.

The video then introduced a comic background music score, as a 'patient', depicted to be COVID-19 positive, attempted to touch the youngsters. What followed was two minutes of the men scrambling to avoid physical contact with the 'patient' and attempting to escape the close quarters of the tempo.

The video, which was staged and executed by the Tiruppur police, has received mixed responses on social media.

While some have hailed it as 'innovative', doctors and experts in the field of health point out that it will only create more stigma around coronavirus and increase the fear in people's minds.

"A government instrument cannot encourage such prank videos, especially not the police department," said Dr Ezhil Naganathan, MD General Medicine, Consultant Physician.

“Who gave them authority to indulge in such mocking and take such a comical or jovial tone regarding coronavirus? This video will only increase stigma against patients, even after they have recovered,” pointed out the doctor.

He said that there is already panic associated with the disease and that was evident from the violence seen in the past week against the family and friends of a doctor who died after contracting the virus.

"Tomorrow, even after a patient is discharged from the hospital, such videos will encourage the public to fear them," he said.

Effects of ‘Fear’ Messaging Short-Term and Not Sustainable

Experts pointed out that use of ‘fear’ messaging definitely works as a rude wake-up call for communities, however the effects are short-term and not sustainable.

Jayashree Balasubramanian, the Director of Communication at MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, who had been part of the Tamil Nadu HIV project, draws parallels between the messaging around both diseases.

"While spreading awareness about HIV too, there was the belief that fear will alert people and make them come forward to report infections. However, what happened instead was an increase in suicide of HIV-positive patients and their ostracisation in the society. We spent years de-stigmatising and changing the message to remove the damages of fear messaging," she said.

With coronavirus patients running away from hospitals and refusing to report themselves, she fears that repercussions of such messaging have already made their mark.

(This story was first published in The News Minute and has been published with permission.)

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