Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, some schools of thought have continued to argue that the virus does not exist and have constituted themselves into a stumbling block against efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Their arguments stem from their belief that the virus is a creation of the western world to cast fear into the minds of people all over the world in order to manipulate them.
Even while the virus was sending millions to their graves across different countries of the world, proponents of these schools of thought refused to accept the reality on ground. Instead, they always had excuses to rubbish all the facts that showed that the virus was indeed real and ravaging the world.
It was quite frustrating to realise that while the entire world was fighting through medical and scientific interventions to curtail the spread of COVID-19, some people were propagating a campaign of falsehood, based on their collective ignorance.
It was not until notable figures of the world started dying from the virus that some of these skeptics began to rethink their ignorance-propelled beliefs about it. While a smaller fraction from these groups were converted into believers of the existence of COVID-19, the rest have continued to hold on to their warped worldview about the virus. No wonder all the campaigns geared towards the acceptance of vaccination were initially encountering bottlenecks in terms of persuasion. These doubting Thomases have infiltrated the minds of many with their contagious disbelief.
In Nigeria, many notable public influencers, especially religious leaders with large followership, have come out publicly to say that COVID-19 does not exist. They even went a step further to discourage members of their ministries from taking the vaccines. While many view the position of these religious leaders as an expression of sheer ignorance, others see them as agents of misinformation who have formed an ungodly alliance against a campaign aimed at safeguarding the health of humanity.
In the article, “COVID-19, Misinformation, and the Law in Nigeria”, Cheluchi Onyemelukwe highlights the negative role misinformation played in slowing down the progress in the fight against COVID-19: “The spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria has been paralleled by the spread of misinformation and disinformation about the novel coronavirus. In Nigeria, information casting doubt on the existence of the coronavirus is spread especially through social media channels, but also through other informal channels. Some religious leaders with considerable influence have doubted the existence of the virus, and shared conspiracy theories on its origins and the interventions instituted to prevent further spread of the virus.”
Nurturing the dangerous notion that COVID-19 does not exist is even more worrisome than refusing to get vaccinated. Those who believe the virus does not exist are often found to live their lives carelessly, defying all the safety protocols and exuding unfounded confidence. For such persons, the virus usually strikes them in droves and the hope of survival becomes dampened due to their prejudiced mindset. This set of people are not too different from those who have been religiously brainwashed into thinking that the virus is another gimmick from the pit of hell.
This writer has had encounters with pastors who openly condemned the COVID-19 vaccine, describing it as an avenue to inflict the 666 mark of the beast on people. No wonder they are hell-bent on dissuading their members from taking the vaccine. But all this is a product of unbridled ignorance. Any religion or doctrine that does not support causes that promote the wellbeing of humanity should search its conscience carefully. In most cases, ignorance and the emergence of strange doctrines create so much confusion in the society and it would take much reorientation for such anomalies to be checked.
It is fundamental to the fight against COVID-19 that public enlightenment and education should be taken seriously. People who are misinformed or brainwashed with controversial doctrines and religious sentiments can be freed from the shackles of mental slavery, especially as issues concerning the dreaded virus are of life and death.
It is expected that the World Health Organisation is making strategic efforts towards ensuring that certain religious views on COVID-19 do not hamper the progress the world has recorded in checkmating the spread of the virus. Of all the strategies being deployed in the fight against the dreaded virus, stemming the tide of ignorance and misinformation remains the greatest and most urgent.