Every April 1 is celebrated as April Fools’ Day but this year some countries have warned their citizens against making April Fool’s Day pranks that are related to coronavirus.
Countries like Thailand and India threaten jail time for those who go ahead with such an expensive joke amid the coronavirus pandemic.
This move is in a bid to prevent the spread of rumors which could put lives at risk.
At a time like this, many people are relying on the internet and media for vital information about coronavirus. There are fears that jokes could fan the spread of misinformation.
Thailand said on Tuesday that April Fools’ Day jokes about the virus could be punished under a law carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison.
“It’s against the law to fake having COVID-19 this April Fools’ Day,” the government said on Twitter.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen took to Facebook to tell people not to prank about the virus, adding that anyone spreading rumors or false information could face up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to NT$3 million (US$99,200).
In India, Maharashtra state’s cybersecurity unit said it would take legal action against anyone spreading fake news on April Fools’ Day.
“The state govt won’t allow anyone to spread rumors/panic on #Corona,” Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh tweeted, adding that he had instructed the authorities to “act swiftly & strongly [against] such miscreants”.
In the same vein, Germany’s health ministry also appealed to the public not to make up stories about the virus under the heading “Corona is no joke.”
From drinking cow urine to sleeping by chopped onions, myths about how people can catch and cure COVID-19 are already widely circulating.
The World Health Organization has described it as an “infodemic”, which could increase the spread of the virus among vulnerable people.
Taylor Herring, a British PR agency whose clients include TV channels and international brands, advised all companies to ditch the jokes this year.
“Tip for any brands planning an April Fool’s Day stunt. Just. Don’t,” it said on social media.
Others commented on twitter that April Fools’ Day had been canceled because no one could make up anything more unbelievable than what is currently happening in the world.