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Media ‘infodemic’ causes more damage to Italy than coronavirus outbreak — FM Di Maio

Media ‘infodemic’ causes more damage to Italy than coronavirus outbreak — FM Di Maio
The “infodemic” around COVID-19 is more damaging to Italy than the virus itself, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has said. This is as the number of registered Italian cases jumped by 100 overnight and two more people have died.

“The epidemic of misleading information will do more damage to Italy than the risk of the virus epidemic itself,” Di Maio told reporters Thursday. “We have gone from an epidemic risk to an ‘infodemic’ one.”

The spread of “misleading” reports damages not only the fragile economy of the country — that has seen three recessions in just over a decade — but also the reputation of its scientific community, the minister added.

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Italian scientists are “addressing the situation brilliantly,” while the media scare blows the situation out of proportion, he argued. So far, the outbreak affects only 0.089 percent of the country’s population, including infected and quarantined, the official explained.

“Without wanting to play things down, there are just over 10 towns and cities involved in Italy at the moment,” Di Maio said. “If our children go to school in most cases it means that foreigners can come here as tourists and investors.”

Italy is experiencing the worst outbreak of the deadly virus that Europe has seen so far. The official data says the death toll rose to 14 overnight, while the number of confirmed cases has soared to 528.

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Italy is not the first nation to blame the media for overblowing the coronavirus situation. China, where the ongoing outbreak began, previously hit out at international media over what it called sensationalist coverage of the virus, as well as running “racist” and “Sinophobic” stories.

Chinese diplomats, for instance, scolded German media early in February for “publishing racist statements and tolerating xenophobic tendencies, directed against China in particular” under the guise of the press freedom. While the remark was not targeting any outlet in particular, it came within days after German magazine Der Spiegel published a cover showing a person in protective gear holding an iPhone with the headline: ‘Coronavirus. Made in China. When globalization turns into a deadly threat.’

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