Coronavirus | Odisha government falls prey to fake news on Oxford University study

A dubious report lauding measures to contain COVID-19 in Ganjam district was tweeted by CMO

The Odisha government seems to have fallen prey to fake news. A dubious news report citing a purported Oxford University study that praised measures to contain COVID-19 spread in Ganjam district was promoted by the top Odisha administration on social media.

Quoting the news report, Office of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik jumped to highlight the ‘recognition’ by tweeting, “Ganjam earned praise from @UniofOxford for its successful model of #COVID-19 infection prevention. The district excelled in #CovidManagement by empowering sarpanchs, forming committees in villages for intensive screening and by ensuring proper healthcare.”

As soon as the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) put out the tweet on Thursday, the official handle of the district magistrate of Ganjam too tweeted, “Ganjam Model of COVID Management got recognized by @UniofOxford for successful infection prevention strategies. Our gratitude and appreciation to Team Ganjam.”

When doubts were cast on the purported study, the CMO deleted the tweet in English, but it continued with the Odia tweet which quoted another website. Almost all vernacular dailies carried the reported Oxford University study prominently on Friday.

When asked about the study, Ganjam District Collector Vijay Amruta Kulange said he did not have the study, but promised to find it out later in the day.

The news report quoted by the CMO, Odisha says, “the first case was found on May 2 in Ganjam district of Odisha. In August, the rate of getting the patient reached 59%, after which measures were taken, now 98% of the 20430 patients have been fully vaccinated, only 188 patients are left.”

In an apparent hurry to highlight the government’s achievement, the CMO ignored the content of the news with bizarre description — “now 98% of the 20430 patients have been fully vaccinated, only 188 patients are left.”

Instead of the Oxford University study, Mr. Kulange provided a document titled ‘Ganjam Model on COVID Management’ which says, “with the receipt of more than 4 lakh migrants in a district of the size and scale of Ganjam, the district has had a long-drawn battle with COVID.”

“It was only after a period of time in August that the numerous initiatives taken by the administration such as high testing levels, red zone management, containment measures, healthcare facilities and community involvement began to show results,” it says.

“More than 97% of positive cases have recovered so far and the doctors and all paramedic staffs have had numerous sleepless nights to save lives of thousands of COVID positive patients,” the administration boasts.

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