MANILA – Fighting misinformation riskseating into the national government’s resources that would otherwise be spenton dealing with the new coronavirus that the world is trying to contain, saidManila’s former health minister who led the response to the Severe AcuteRespiratory Syndrome (SARS) nearly two decades ago. Compared to SARS, the Philippines is “betterprepared” to respond to the novel coronavirus from Wuhan, China as negativepressure or isolation chambers and quarantine procedures are in place, saidformer health secretary Manuel Dayrit. Unlike during the SARS outbreak of 2002to 2003, information on the new coronavirus is readily available, said Dayrit.In the absence of social media at that time, he hosted press briefingsregularly for 2 months to keep the public updated. “Magtulong-tulungan tayo, hindiiyong panggalingan at magdulot tayong pangamba at takot… Ano bangmaidudulot ng pagpapakalat ng fake news?” he told DZMM Wednesday. (ABS-CBN News) China said Wednesday deaths due to thenovel coronavirus had risen to 132 with nearly 6,000 people infected.Governments and companies around the world have warned against travel to Chinaand readied their citizens there for possible repatriation. “The downside is that false news andmaliciously-manufactured information can really confuse and scare people,”he told ABS-CBN News in an email interview. The Philippines has yet to confirm anycase of the pathogen that comes from the same family of viruses as SARS,authorities said Monday. However, at least 6 schools in Manila suspendedclasses on Monday over false online information that the capital had acoronavirus case. “Fear of the unknown” propagates fakenews on the disease, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque, who urged thepublic to monitor his agency’s daily advisories. “Disinformation may cause publicconfusion, and cause wasteful deployment of resources in efforts to verify andto take corrective action,” said Dayrit, also a former dean of the AteneoSchool of Medicine who served at the World Health Organization in Geneva afterhis stint at the Department of Health.