The German government has been urged to improve public health information about the coronavirus for foreign-language communities. The call came in response to false rumors about the virus circulating among Turkish speakers in Germany.
“Is it true that henna or pickled vegetables protect against the virus?”
“Is it true that Chancellor Angela Merkel said that 70 percent of the population will die from the virus?”
“Do Turkish people have a gene that is resistant to coronavirus?”
It was after becoming aware of “absurd rumors” that Berlin-based journalist Nalan Sipar last week posted a message on Twitter to the German chancellor Angela Merkel and her government spokesperson. Sipar referred to an “incredible” amount of disinformation among non-German-speakers in the country’s Turkish community. In the tweet, which received several thousand “likes”, she proposed that the ministry release a video with subtitles in Turkish, Arabic and other languages, informing the communities about coronavirus.
"False information is very dangerous in this situation," Sipar said, adding that panic could cause people to do “crazy things.”
Two days later, on Saturday, Sipar produced the video with the German Health Ministry. It was released the same day.
The video received positive reactions from the Turkish community, Sipar says. "It was important that it wasn't me as a journalist but the Federal Ministry that communicated (the information). If a government agency is behind it, it has a very different effect on people."
Where to find Germany’s official advice and information about coronavirus COVID-19 in foreign languages:
- The Robert-Koch Institute publishes daily situation reports on COVID-19 in English as well as German. They include information about the epidemiological situation in Germany, risk areas and measures taken by the government such as border restrictions.
- Information in languages other than German on the German Health Ministry website is limited to very basic advice on COVD-19 and personal protection (English, Turkish, Russian, Arabic).
- A much better source than the health ministry is the website of the Federal Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, which offers information about COVID-19 in 11 foreign languages including English.
- Twitter accounts that provide reliable information about the corona crisis in Turkish, according to Platform Almanya/Türkiye (@PlatformTR1), 17 March 2020: