“The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news… and it’s not entirely the media’s fault, bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news.” –Peter McWilliams
Both local and national news in the Philippines has been about the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) and it does not appear to be letting up. It would seem about 90 percent of all news coverage is about the virus and, with so many people following the story, they start to believe nCoV is a clear and present danger — the media has the power to bring either sadness of joy.
With nCoV stories primarily focused on fear and death, those following may be wallowing in grief (even if they are not affected). As long as the virus remains a hot topic globally, it will remain so on the local level. Controversy sells and media in the Philippines operates heavily from a commercial viewpoint.
Once the media begins burying stories about the virus, that is when mass hysteria and paranoia begins to dissipate.
Hopefully, the death toll coming out of China does not increase greatly over the next few days or it will be nCoV all over the again.
Meanwhile, as the media focuses on the virus, there are other news stories about the price of basic commodities, rice supply, graft and corruption in government, war against illegal drugs, human rights violations, peace talks, the economy, climate change, among other topics.
Based on the latest report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the international community has launched a $675 million preparedness and response plan from February through April to curb the contagion.
“My biggest worry is that there are countries today who do not have the systems in place to detect people who have contracted with the virus, even if it were to emerge,” said WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Urgent support is needed to bolster weak health systems to detect, diagnose, and care for people with the virus, to prevent further human to human transmission, and protect health workers.”
The Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for nCoV has reportedly laid out activities and resources needed by international health organizations globally, including WHO, to implement priority public health measures in support of countries to prepare and respond to the virus.
The objectives are to limit human-to-human transmission of the virus, particularly in countries most vulnerable; identify, isolate, and care for patients early; communicate critical risk and event information; minimize social and economic impact; reduce virus spread from animal sources; and address crucial unknowns.
WHO said the plan focuses on rapidly establishing international coordination and operational support, scaling up country readiness and response operations, and accelerating priority research and innovation.
Alex P. Vidal, who is based in New York City, used to be the editor for two local dailies in Iloilo./WDJ