In late January, World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) a global crisis after its spread and ravage outside of its origins of detection, China.
Up to date (April 6 2020), the virus has affected more than 1, 2 million people and claimed over 67 000 people across the globe.
Despite these ridiculous figures, it is worthy knowing that at least 250 000 people have recovered from this fast spreading, contagious disease.
Zimbabwe was not also spared, with 9 confirmed cases and 1 death.
Be that as it may, provision and flow of information remains critical in trying to combat COVID-19.
UNESCO has stressed the importance of disseminating information that is reliable as it’s Assistant Director for Communication and Information, Moez Chakchouk said, “The role of journalists in informing the public during the ongoing crisis is absolutely pivotal…..In times of health crisis, the importance of accurate and reliable journalism cannot be overstated.”
Misinformation and disinformation thrive on the vulnerability and fragility of the audiences, especially during pandemics and natural disasters.
It should be noted with concern, that a lot of information on COVID-19 which is fake, false and misleading has been making rounds on social media.
Corona virus is a serious threat to the socio-eco-political status of any society in the World right now.
But what should be done to preserve the existing status and clear ground for picking up the pieces after this pandemic end?
People need to be saved as much as possible. Raising awareness on the disease remains one of the most critical work that should be done by journalists, community leaders, the government and civic society organizations.
Dialogue around risk communication and mitigation must cloud over all other trends people and the media focuses on, on a normal day.
The Zimbabwean Politics
It was act of deliberate ignorance by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe to hand over the MDC judgement during a lockdown, drawing officials out of hibernation just to attend to that.
Of course, measures were taken, but that exposure puts people at risk. As anyone would expect MDC suddenly became the talk of the town.
A quick snap of the Zimbabwe’s online trends shifted to politics, MDC leadership wrangles and a serious use of hate speech against Thokozani Khupe.
We quickly forgot the deadly virus savaging over 1500 people next door in South Africa.
This discussion was pushed back to the backseat and party politics on the driver’s seat.
Commenting on the issue, using their Twitter platform, media analysts Media Monitors said, “Looks like MDC hogged all the limelight. Zim Twitter’s focus on the 3rd day of the lockdown was on MDC leadership wrangle in the middle of a global pandemic.
We must increase risk communication and raise awareness on COVID-19. Active information provision will remain critical.”
Along the same lines, it is reasonable to say politics shouldn’t be given less attention but it’s just a matter of priorities. What politics can we talk of when this pandemic is spreading with such a pace? Trends come and go on social media but the virus is not following such a pattern.
The responsible authorities must be providing timely information on the development surrounding the pandemic.
The authorities have on various platforms been accused of lack of transparency and honesty with regards to preparedness and statistics around this. Information which includes, new mitigation measures, what other countries are doing and what could work us locally?
Efforts in place to enhance testing and if the current measures are really flattening the curve. Unless we move past the petty party politics, we could be building more post pandemic destruction through these divisions and conflicts.
We must also not forget the economic depression that will surely come with this pandemic.