Take bold action to fight Covid-19

Editorial

WITH news of people being treated for coronavirus (Covid-19) in Australia and Indonesia, who share the same border with us, the reality now is that, it is only a matter of time before it hits our shores.
As of Tuesday, 152 countries across the globe are affected and over 7,000 people have lost their lives to it.
One-third of globally reported cases are in the European Region.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Europe is the epicentre of the first pandemic of Covid-19 and every country, with no exceptions, needs to take their boldest actions to stop or slow down the spread of this virus.
“Boldest actions” should include community action.
Thinking that “this does not concern me” is not an option.
Just like what the WHO representative said last week – PNG’s window of opportunity is getting narrower each day. It is not a matter of IF the virus will come, – it is a question of WHEN.
While the emergency preparedness and response has gained support from our international partners, the people want to know what’s going to happen when it comes into the country.
Where will those who have the virus be quarantined? What is the treatment plan and how will they ensure that it does not spread?
While we do not want to cause panic and anxiety on reporting about the treatment plan, it should be made public so everyone will be aware of what will happen.
The Government owe it to the people, to tell the truth.
Fake news spread like wild fire and that is why the truth must always be told, so there is no panic and anxiety.
Take Wednesday’s news of a probable imported case of coronavirus as an example.
That news alone sent out a mixed signal of panic which is not healthy and has the potential of causing an uproar if everyone went into a panic mode especially with shopping for basic necessities.
How we communicate about Covid-19 is critical in supporting people to take effective action to help combat the disease and to avoid fuelling fear and stigma.
When talking about coronavirus, certain words (i.e. suspect case, isolation…) and language may have a negative meaning for people and fuel stigmatising attitudes.
The Government through the Health Department and the mainstream media have an important role to play in preventing and stopping stigma relating to Covid-19.
In times like this, everyone should be working together.
All political differences should be parked aside and all efforts joined in dealing with this pandemic. Do not forget that stigma can be heightened by insufficient knowledge about how the coronavirus is transmitted and treated and how to prevent infection.
It is time to prioritise the collection, consolidation and dissemination of accurate country – and community-specific information about affected areas, individual and group vulnerability to Covid-19, treatment options and where to access health care and information. Use simple language and avoid clinical terms.
Let us promote content around basic infection prevention practices, symptoms of Covid-19 and when to seek health care.
And that can come about through a special task force that is proactive which include officials from the Health Department, disciplinary forces, the media and our international partners.
Let’s share facts and accurate information about the coronavirus. The way we communicate can affect the attitude of others.
Right now, an environment needs to be created in which the disease and its impact can be discussed and addressed openly, honestly and effectively.

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