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March 2020: Misinformation presents obstacles as countries respond to coronavirus

The Brief

March 9, 2020

As countries strategize to combat the spread of coronavirus, Johns Hopkins SAIS experts addressed how misinformation has influenced the response to the global outbreak.
Dean Eliot A. Cohen wrote in The Atlantic that governments responding to coronavirus are at the "mercy of individuals who have incentives to misrepresent the truth or temporarily suppress it.”
Director of SAIS China Andrew Mertha discussed the Chinese government's shaky response to the outbreak in The Hill, writing that its decentralized government “incentivizes local leaders to cover up bad news.”
Aronson Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies Sarah Parkinson discussed the global outbreak's impact in the Middle East with The Straits Times’ Asian Insider warning that people are taking the opportunity to “forward particular political narratives about refugees” as threats. Watch here

Professor of Strategic Studies Thomas Rid warned in Bloomberg that social media allows conspiracy theories related to coronavirus to “spread more widely and are more persistent in the sense that you can’t undo them.”

Senior Fellow of International Affairs and Agora Fellow in Residence Anne Applebaum cautioned in an op-ed for The Atlantic that we will be able to count the cost of dishonesty in responses to coronavirus “in the numbers of deaths, in the spread of disease, in the numbers of people who ignore quarantines or precautions.”
The Brief highlights Johns Hopkins SAIS expertise on current events and is produced monthly by the Office of Marketing and Communications

Additional content from our experts is included below.

Egypt reports first case of coronavirus in Africa amid fears for poorer nations. 2/16
Coronavirus threat looms over fragile African health systems. 2/7
Virus prompts temperature checks, extra cleaning at airports. 1/21
More nations join China in responding to new coronavirus. 1/21

Foreign Policy Institute Senior Fellow Hafed Al-Ghwell 
Coronavirus: What the Middle East can do to stay safe. 2/1

Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs Hal Brands 
China fails the leadership test on coronavirus. 2/27

Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of Political Economy and Director of the China Africa Research Initiative Deborah Bräutigam
‘In good and bad times’: Africa’s biggest airline, Ethiopian, sticks by China’s side. 2/9

 Henry M. and Elizabeth P. Wiesenfeld Professor in Political Economy Ho-Fung Hung
What China’s empty new coronavirus hospitals say about its secretive system. 2/12
‘A lot of fear’: Asian community a target of racism amid coronavirus threat. 1/28

Andrew Mertha
COVID-19 reveals how China’s internal politics now affect the whole world. 3/6

Adjunct Lecturer of International Development Joshua Michaud
Novel coronavirus outbreak 'not yet' a global health emergency. 1/24

Senior Adjunct Professor of European and Eurasian Studies Gianfranco Pasquino
Italy pulls out all the stops to tackle coronavirus outbreak. 2/25

Thomas Rid
Google scrub coronavirus misinformation on search, YouTube. 3/10
The coronavirus is causing an outbreak in America—of anti-Asian racism. 1/30

James Anderson Adjunct Professor of Middle East Studies Sanam Vakil
Have U.S. sanctions impacted Iran's ability to combat the coronavirus? 2/26

Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies Policy Research Fellow Monica Weller
Mongolia braces for coronavirus impact. 2/9