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Need to crack down on self-styled medical 'advisors'

Gajanan Khergamker | Mumbai

In view of the Coronavirus threat, the Maharashtra Government, like most others, has invoked provisions of Epidemic Disease Act 1897 by a notification dated 13 March 2020 from the date of issuance of notification ie 14 March 2020 for a period of one year or until further orders.

The pertinent portion of The Maharashtra COVID-19 Regulations 2020

In exercise of the powers conferred under Section 2, 3 and 4 of the Epidemic Disease Act 1897, the Government of Maharashtra  has framed regulations for prevention and containment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID19). The Regulations are called The Maharashtra COVID-19 Regulations 2020.

Accordingly, no person, institution, organisation will use any print or electronic or social media for dissemination of information regarding COVID-19 without ascertaining the facts and prior clearances of the Commissioner, Health Services, Director of Health Services (DHS-I and II), Director, Medical Health and Research (DMER) or Collector as the case may be. This is necessary to avoid spread of any unauthenticated information and/or rumours regarding COVID-19. If any person, institution/organisation is found indulging in such activity, it will be treated as a punishable offence under such Regulations.

It has been witnessed that across Social Media platforms that include Whatsapp Groups, Facebook platforms and Twitter, a range of completely unregulated and publicity-driven 'specialists' and 'professionals' has been volunteering information, even 'free' telephonic consultations, on the issue to 'masses'. Issues of personal privacy, state welfare, legal liability, professional ethics and law and order are directly at risk here.

In view of established governmental platforms created to address public concerns, the flurry of 'information' being doled out across private 'social' platforms must be weeded out by the authorities in question swiftly and punished accordingly. The punishments could vary from notices to withdrawal of licenses and/or appropriate penal action. The threat of the epidemic has only provided platforms for publicity-mongering 'specialists' and charlatans who cause more harm than good.

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