KABUL (Pajhwok): About 10 months have passed since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Afghanistan, but rumors that coronavirus patients die in hospitals after being injected from ampoules at health centers are still forcing people to avoid diagnosis and treatment.
The Covid-19 first emerged in China and the first case in Afghanistan was recorded in March and by June, the number of infected people reached its highest level.
During the outbreak, rumors would circulate on social media and Facebook pages that Covid-19 patients were injected at Covid-19 hospitals to lose their lives.
After that the rumor spread, a number of people with symptoms of coronavirus did not go to hospital or to see a doctor.
Officials at the Ministry of Public Health had confirmed the rumors which they said had reduced visits of patients to health centers at the time; but now people have more confidence in health services in hospitals.
Rumors of Covid-19 patients’ killings for money
A Facebook page named “Khabar-i-Ajil (Breaking News)” on June 13, 2020, posted: “Killing of Covid-19 patients against money.”
The post said: “We have evidence that in the Afghan-Japan hospital, coronavirus patients are killed by doctors by injecting them on a daily basis….. according to eyewitnesses, many patients taken to the Afghan-Japan or Ali Jinnah hospitals were killed deliberately but they were shown as dying from coronavirus. These hospitals receive $5,000 against each death of patient and for this reason they do not allow any autopsy of a dead body, please take care of your patients…. And share this post so every Muslims are informed from this.”
Hundreds of people have commented on this post, thousands have liked it and dozens of others shared it with their friends through their Facebook pages.
RohidFarahmand, a Facebook user commented on the post,: “Do not spread rumors! With these lies, you want to lead people to disbelief in this dangerous virus and undermine people’s trust in health services. Such rumors are betrayal.”
Pajhwok findings show that at the time, the rumor was spread by dozens of Facebook users and a number of Facebook users believed in the rumor and they told people not to go to hospitals if they wanted to save their lives.
While almost 10 months have passed since the rumor started circulating, but it still haunts the minds of some people who do not go to health centers for diagnosis and treatment due to fear of death.
FerozMuradi, a resident of Kabul who was diagnosed with coronavirus about a month ago and has recovered recently, said: “I went through a difficult time because I would not go to hospital or doctor because of the fear of injections. At the beginning of Covid-19, it was said that patients are injected to deaths. One of our neighbors went to hospital on his feet but he was brought dead.”
Jamshed, an inhabitant of Ferozkoh of Ghor, who has been infected with coronavirus, said: “I got infected by the virus about 10 months back and unfortunately I did not go to hospital because of the fear that patients are injected. I take medicines willfully. For this reason, I was very upset about this disease.”
PirMohamad, 65, another resident of Ferozkoh, told Pajhwok: “I was very scared when I first heard the rumor. I am a blood pressure patient, but I would not go to hospital for fear of being admitted as Covid-19 patient until one day my condition worsened and my sons took me to hospital where I was admitted as a Covid-19 patient. I knew my ailing was high blood pressure, not coronavirus but unfortunately I was injected about six time a day and I became very weak and even lost mouth taste. As much as I know, they use the name of coronavirus in order to get more aid in Afghanistan but this is very dangerous for the elderly individuals.”
Meanwhile, Arezo, a resident of Nimroz province, said: “Coronavirus is a dangerous disease but if it does not kill you, the doctor will. This is what I always hear from people that everyone who visits hospital never comes alive. I was infected to this disease, but I preferred home remedies, quarantined myself and followed instructions and most of our area people did the same.”
Monika Rezaee,18, told Pajhwok: “When my father got infected, it was very difficult for us as everyone would say Covid-19 kills people. My father is also diabetic but we did not take him to the Shaidayee hospital and thanks God he is fine.”
According to her, there were also rumors in Herat that patients were injected in health centers and this rumor still existed in the minds of people.
Farhad, 35, resident of Heart, said rumors about coronavirus could be confusing as initially it was said that Covid-19 patients were injected from ampoules in order to die.
Abdul Rahman, deputy head of Pashayee tribe council, said: “we have heard a lot that Covid-19 patients are injected in hospitals in order to receive fund.”
Yousaf Ali, 70, a resident of Daikundi province, said: “When I was infected with coronavirus, I had a difficult time, but I did not want to go to Covid-19 hospital because people would say that old people were forcibly killed via injection.”
What doctors, health officials say regarding this rumors?
Dr. ZulmayRishtin, director of Afghan-Japan hospital (Covid-19 section), in an interview with Pajhwok called such rumors as disturbing for health centers and health personnel, especially in Afghan-Japan Hospital.
He added: “In the first wave of Covid-19, rumors were spread among people that patients are injected. Unfortunately, a large number of our compatriots believed in this and no one wanted to transfer their family members to Covid-19 hospital for examination and treatment, and as a result, the death rate of Covid-19 patients increased day by day.”
He said it was duty of a doctor to save the life of a patient, and no doctor or medical staff could try to kill someone.
He added: “We are thankfully Muslims, and Islam does not allow anyone, especially doctors, whose job is to save the sick, to kill people.”
Dr. Rishtin said the spread of such rumors caused people to distrust health personnel, urging people to refrain from spreading such rumors; “Because going to a health center will not only prevent the disease from spreading to other family members but also prevent the disease from getting worse.”
Concluding, he noted that disbelief in Covid-19 hospitals had now disappeared and people with symptoms of coronavirus fearlessly visited hospitals for treatment.
Dr. AbuzarMutaqi, the director of Mohammad Ali Jinnah Hospital, called the rumors as baseless and lie, saying that at the beginning, such rumors were mostly about Jinnah Hospital, which were all groundless.
He added: “Such rumors are mostly spread by private health centers and foreign countries to discredit public hospitals and attract people to private hospitals.”
He claimed that some countries whose low-quality products were rejected by state run health centers were trying to sell the products in the open market and thus spreading such rumors.
According to him, due to the establishment of more Covid-19 centers in the country, the situation is mostly under control, facilities are provided to Covid-19 patients, and public confidence in government hospitals has restored and such rumors have decreased.
Dr. HakimullahSaleh, a health expert, said the main reason why Covid-19 spread was lack of public awareness and the fear of health workers and lack of attention to Covid-19 patients.
During the outbreak of coronavirus, he said, health workers also did not pay much attention to patients because of the risk of contracting Covid-19, which led people to distrust health centers and spread rumors.
He told Pajhwok that during the outbreak of the virus, everyone was terrified and most health workers were reluctant to work to fight the disease.
He asked MoPH to raise awareness in order to regain public trust and reduce rumors and increase people’s trust in hospitals and prevent the spread of rumors.
Meanwhile, MasumaJafar, MoPH deputy spokeswoman, told Pajhwok that such rumors were being spread through Facebook pages among public but they were all rumors and untrue.
She said this problem was not only confined to Afghanistan, but different rumors about the disease and its patients had circulated in other countries.
“All our medical personnel, including doctors, are out to save people’s lives even a number of doctors who infected have lost their lives.”
She added the spread of such rumors would reduce the number of people visiting health centers, and as a result, the virus would spread rabidly among people and create a serious problem for public health.
She called on the media to track down such news spread on social media and prove them wrong because it confused the public mind and created social problems.
According to him, so far more than 4,000 health personnel in Afghanistan have been infected with Covid-19 and 80 of them have died from the disease.
In Afghanistan, 52,513 positive cases and 2,201 deaths have been recorded and 42,006 have recovered from the virus so far.
“This Investigative Report was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Pajhwok and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.”
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