Uninterrupted supply of newspapers vital: Govt 


NEW DELHI, 24th Mar: As the country is in a lockdown to combat the coronavirus outbreak, the government on Tuesday said that uninterrupted supply of newspapers is vital to ensure that public gets accurate information and is abreast of the latest developments. Only this can help readers make informed choices. 

To highlight the importance of the "operational continuity of print and electronic media" in view of the outbreak, the Union government has taken out a circular urging all states and union territories to facilitate operational convenience of these services to "ensure timely and authentic information dissemination." 

In a letter to chief secretaries of all states and union territories on March 23, the ministry of information and broadcasting noted that "proper functioning of these networks is required not only to create awareness among people and to give important messages but also to keep the nation updated of the latest status" and prevent the spread of 'false and fake' news. The circular notes "printing presses and distribution infrastructure of newspapers and magazines" as critical infrastructure for the uninterrupted operation of information networks. 

Earlier, on March 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi listed the media as part of the essential services that need to function during the lockdown. 

Globally too, newspaper supplies have not stopped in any part of the the world. Dr Subhash Salunke, technical advisor to the Maharashtra government on infectious diseases, said, "Even the most affected countries have not closed circulation of newspapers. It it completely safe to touch, read and handle newspapers." 

Leading newspapers like The Times of India are printed with highly automated processes and without human contact. From robotic handling of newsprint and other raw materials to printing, folding, packaging and dispatch — this is all carried out seamlessly till the printed newspaper is loaded into distribution trucks. At distribution centres, TOI and other news organisations have provided gloves, sanitisers and masks to ensure last-mile delivery is also safeguarded. 

Heads of building societies and resident welfare associations, hawkers and readers should therefore know that fears that newspapers could be an avenue of infection are unfounded. It is safe to deliver and read newspapers at your home. 

Virologists confirm the same, saying the chances of getting infected when you pick up a newspaper are virtually nil. According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus has poor survivability on most surfaces outside a living organism's cells. 

"There is no logic in saying that newspapers are unsafe," said Dr Anoop Kumar of the Baby Memorial Hospital in Kozhikode. "If you are reading a newspaper in a crowded room, then the risk of catching the infection is more not because of the newspaper but because you are not maintaining social distancing." Dr Randeep Guleria, director AIIMS, said, "Viruses don't survive for so long on paper to cause infection." Dr Rahul Jain, internal medicine consultant at the Belle Vue Clinic, echoes the view. "Newspapers are unlikely to spread Covid-19 since they are permeable and don't let the virus persist for a long time even though they are touched and handled by several people. Since the paper is bundled and hurled or folded, the virus is sure to get displaced even if it manages to land on the paper. It will get sucked into newsprint before transmission and die."

Dr Anoop Mishra, chairman of Fortis C-Doc, also urged people not to believe in rumours. "The possibility of spread of infection from newspapers is virtually nil," he said.

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