THE fight against the 2019 novel coronavirus is no longer confined to Wuhan or Hubei province in China. It is a global one, with the United States and Europe, along with the Middle East and Asia, Australia and Africa all involved in this worldwide effort.
With the public health problem being physically tackled by medical experts, scientists and physicians, health authorities both in the Department of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) are fighting the novel coronavirus acute respiratory diseases (ARD) on another front: the communication and information field.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has stressed the importance of knowing the actual facts about the novel coronavirus, saying that people must have “access to accurate information to protect themselves and others.”
This task of providing true and accurate information about the virus has been made more difficult with the advent of social media, and the propensity of some lowlife characters to create panic and chaos among certain groups.
Ghebreyesus lamented that while the virus spreads, “misinformation makes the job of our heroic health workers even harder. It is diverting the attention of decision makers and it causes confusion and spreads fear to the general public. At WHO, we are not just battling the virus; we’re also battling the trolls and conspiracy theorists that push misinformation and undermine the outbreak response.”
It is good that the World Health Organization has a team — the organization’s risk communications and infodemic management team– that is tracking the sources of misinformation. The team is working with the Information Department to deliver correct information and facts to the public. This includes addressing rumors by publishing “myth busters” and Live Q & A interviews with experts, on the WHO website, social media channels and regular media.
In a sense, the problem of Capas, Tarlac residents and their mayor, Reynaldo Catacutan, in opposing the quarantine of returning Filipinos from Wuhan at the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City, Capas, may be traced to poor communication.
The mayor said they were not previously informed about the plan of the national government to use the sports facility as quarantine venue. Local officials could have explained it better to their constituents had they been informed in advance by the DOH or the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) about the plan, and the residents’ opposition would not have been that intense.
“Filipinos always help each other. We are glad to offer our home, our sympathy and prayers for the health of our fellow Filipinos,” Mayor Catacutan was quoted as saying after the quarantine issue was explained to him.
It has become clear now that to defeat the onslaught of nCoV, each and every Filipino, each and every human being, should cooperate and volunteer to help.