Facts, not fear, will stop COVID-19 – so how should we talk about it?

covid

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Robin Pomeroy, Journalist, World Economic Forum


  • “Words matter”: World Health Organization issues guidelines to media.
  • Stick to the facts, don’t spread rumours, and avoid stigmatizing patients.
  • Poor information could help disease spread; good info could help halt it.

It’s not a “plague” or an “apocalypse”; it’s not a “Chinese” or “Asian” disease; and people with COVID-19 should not be described as “spreading the virus”.

These are some of the recommendations from the World Health Organization as it urges the media to ensure their Coronavirus coverage does not stoke panic or stigmatize parts of society.

“(W)e are often afraid of the unknown; and it is easy to associate that fear with ‘others’,” the WHO says in its guidelines published after reports of racist abuse in some countries and the spread of false information online.

If the media can help educate people, COVID-19 will be better understood, and less scary. the WHO says. And if the media are more careful with language, they can help reduce the stigmatization of people who catch the virus.

“Stigma can undermine social cohesion and prompt possible social isolation of groups, which might contribute to a situation where the virus is more, not less, likely to spread,” the WHO says. In short, if people are trying to hide their illness to avoid discrimination, they are less likely to get tested or treated.

Here are some of the WHO’s dos and don’ts for the media:

We need to talk about COVID-19

DO – talk about the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

DON’T – attach locations or ethnicity to the disease, this is not a “Wuhan Virus”, “Chinese Virus” or “Asian Virus”. The official name for the disease was deliberately chosen to avoid stigmatisation – the “co” stands for Corona, “vi” for virus and “d” for disease, 19 is because the disease emerged in 2019.

DO – talk about “people who have COVID-19”

DON’T – refer to people with the disease as “COVID-19 cases” or “victims”

DO – talk about people “acquiring” or “contracting” COVID-19

DON’T – talk about people “transmitting COVID-19” “infecting others” or “spreading the virus” as it implies intentional transmission and assigns blame.

“Using criminalising or dehumanising terminology creates the impression that those with the disease have somehow done something wrong or are less human than the rest of us, feeding stigma, undermining empathy, and potentially fuelling wider reluctance to seek treatment or attend screening, testing and quarantine,” the WHO says.

“Evidence clearly shows that stigma and fear around communicable diseases hamper the response. What works is building trust in reliable health services and advice, showing empathy with those affected, understanding the disease itself, and adopting effective, practical measures so people can help keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”

Opinions on the level of threat from Coronavirus in selected European countries 2020 Published by Conor Stewart, Mar 3, 2020  In February 2020, it was found that 60 percent of individuals surveyed in Italy and Great Britain thought that the Coronavirus represented a threat to public health in their countries, the countries with the highest feelings of threat from the virus in Europe. On the other hand, only 30 percent of respondents in Denmark believe that Coronavirus is a public health threat in their country. As of March 1, 2020 over 87.1 thousand cases have been confirmed worldwide, wide, although the vast majority of cases have occurred in Asia. Share of individuals who believe that Coronavirus is a threat to public health in their country in 2020, by selected European countries
Percentage of people in some European countries that see COVID-19 as a threat.
Image: Statista

Stick to the facts

DO – speak accurately about the risk from COVID-19, based on scientific data and latest official health advice.

DON’T – repeat or share unconfirmed rumours, and avoid using hyperbolic language designed to generate fear like “plague”, “apocalypse” etc.

An “infodemic” of misinformation and rumours is spreading more quickly than the current outbreak of the new coronavirus

—WHO

Be positive

DO – talk positively and emphasise the effectiveness of prevention and treatment measures. For most people this is a disease they can overcome.

DON’T – There are simple steps we can all take to keep ourselves, our loved ones and the most vulnerable safe. Don’t – emphasise or dwell on the negative, or messages of threat.

DO – emphasise the effectiveness of adopting protective measures to prevent acquiring the new coronavirus, as well as early screening, testing and treatment.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

3 steps to boost your digital safety while working from home

Here are 4 ways investors can influence more secure and responsible innovation

Germany loves a strong euro; the new Fiscal Councils can deliver despite the Greek chaos and a wider questioning of austerity

Which countries get the most sleep – and how much do we really need?

Will the three major parties retain control of the new EU Parliament?

Five avoidable deaths per minute shows urgent need for action on patient safety

Idai disaster: Stranded victims still need rescue from heavy rains as UN scales up response

Humans aren’t made for repetition – it’s time AI took over manufacturing

A chemistry professor explains: why soap is so good at killing COVID-19

Driving structural change through global value chains integration

EU to spend €135.5 billion in 2014 or 6.5% less than this year

Vaccine against Ebola: Commission grants new market authorisations

Car bomb attack on National Police Academy in Colombia, ‘strongly condemned’ by UN

Algorithmic warfare is coming. Humans must retain control

This AI outperformed 20 corporate lawyers at legal work

A Sting Exclusive: “Europe must be more ambitious in COP21 and lead on climate finance and sustainable development”, Green UK MEP Jean Lambert points out from Brussels

Security Council urged to act with ‘one strong voice’ on raft of ills plaguing Middle East and North Africa

‘Endemic’ sexual violence surging in South Sudan: UN human rights office

Banks get trillions and the unemployed ECB’s love…

UN food aid to Yemen will fully resume after two-month break, as Houthis ‘guarantee’ delivery

At UN, Cuba slams US ‘criminal’ practices undermining country’s development

What do Europeans believe about the crisis and the possible way out?

The EU pretends not knowing what happens in the Western Balkans

Three ways the world must tackle mental health

State aid: Commission approves €6 billion German measure to recapitalise Lufthansa

This AI can predict your personality just by looking at your eyes

How music can help children with autism connect

UN appeals for international support as flood waters rise in wake of second Mozambique cyclone

What is carbon offsetting?

Number of members in Parliament’s committees to change after Brexit

Refugees now make up 1% of the world’s population

‘Democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people’ must be met urges Guterres, following military removal of al-Bashir from power

This is how COVID-19 is affecting indigenous people

Forward Agenda: What can we expect from 2019?

EP supports local authorities fighting the effects of the pandemic

World Editors Forum President: Credible media vital in the fight against COVID-19 and fake news epidemic

Britain heading to national schism on exit from EU

How should cities prepare for self-driving cars? Here’s a roadmap

UN-led Yemen ceasefire monitoring team gets ready to begin operations

On sidelines of UN climate summit, US President calls for protection of religious freedom

Canada has the most comprehensive and elaborate migration system, but some challenges remain

EU Summit: Why was Poland isolated in opposing Tusk and the ‘multi speed’ Europe

Young people are not a nameless, faceless mass. So why do we treat them as such?

Reasons to hope and reasons to keep perspective on a vaccine

Gender equality within junior enterprises: the effect of President’s gender

Fair Taxation: EU updates list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions

This is our chance to completely redefine the meaning of work

EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: third annual report shows continued vital and tangible support for refugees and their host communities

Create conditions for ‘harmony between humankind and nature’, UN chief says on sidelines of G20 in Japan

How the future of computing can make or break the AI revolution

This project is turning abandoned fishing gear into volleyball nets

EU shapes its ambitious strategy on India

Draghi to lay his print on long term ECB policies prior to exiting next year

Eurozone: There is a remedy for regional convergence

“Working together to make a change at the COP 21 in Paris”, an article by Ambassador Yang of the Chinese Mission to EU

Energy: EU priority projects should be aligned with 2050 climate objectives

Brexit: Only Corbyn and May in concert can make the needed compromises

Latin America is a mass-transit powerhouse. But it needs fine-tuning

3 vital steps to a new gender equality playbook

IMF: The near-term outlook for the U.S. economy is one of strong growth and job creation

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s