I hope you are keeping safe. Wow, tough times ahead. The scare, the rumours and the fake news around Corona Virus (COVID-19) is now talking a toll on each one of us. No one is safe anymore. Being in a foreign country at such a time is quite scary. Your family is calling you left, right, centre and so are your friends and relatives. ‘I am fine; all is well on my end’ is a response that is being received with suspicion.
I feel the concern for people to have their students return home, I feel the fear from my schoolmates who now want to board the next flight home. But there is no certainty that the world on the other side could be any better. Many countries are now on a lockdown. Kenya has already declared no entry flights to its territory. The United States of America, the United Kingdom and many more countries are issuing travel injunctions. So, what happens? It’s a very stressful time we are in. Telling people to stay safe and calm isn’t working any magic at this point.
A week ago, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 outbreak pandemic. Very interesting time to be alive. I am watching it unfold before my very eyes. Exciting time for journalists who must be extra vigilant especially during this era of proliferation of misinformation and fake news. It is therefore, the duty of all journalists, editors, content creators and curators to enhance their verification efforts.
From a media and communications perspective, it feels like there is an overload of information and digesting all the available information is even more stressful. I will explain. Depending on whose target audience or stakeholder you are at any given point during this COVID-19 era, your organizations, the countries you represent, the people you associate with, the places you shop at, the sectors you represent, everyone is crafting messages to fit you. Still, these messages seem too many at this time.
Take my case. I am in the UK. I have to read information packs from the UK government. It has been very consistent with constant updates being posted on the official government website. I must also read information from the Kenyan High Commission in the United Kingdom. “The health, welfare and safety of Kenyans living in the United Kingdom remain a top priority for the Mission and the Government of the Republic of Kenya.” Read the statement from the High Commission in London.
Then, there is also lots of information from the National Health Service (NHS), the publicly funded healthcare system of the United Kingdom. In addition to that, I am a student at Cardiff University. There are lots of emails flying with students and lecturers worried about teaching groups. Several universities in the UK have already shifted to online teaching models. I know the next intake is around the corner, and many of us are worried about our assignments, deadlines and dissertation projects and how to engage with each other as students especially for modules with group assignments. Self-isolation sounds and looks like the only viable option but, for how long? Our nature of survival as humanity relies heavily on human interaction. By now, you can imagine the amount of information I have to read from the school and from my classmates on COVID-19. I feel sick already.
I am also a Chevening Scholar. Chevening Secretariat too, has been sending us information on how to keep safe. I belong to four different Chevening Networks and the conversation for the last two weeks or so has been about verifying and debunking COVID-19 information and misinformation.
I am a regular shopper at TESCO in the UK, and I have information from TESCO and other shopping enterprises within the UK. Then, there is a lot of data from the WHO. I can only imagine how tough it is to work as a Communication’s Officer at WHO at such a time. I belong to the media sector in Kenya, and I must commend the Media Council of Kenya for issuing an advisory on COVID-19.
I also have to read all the information from all the various WhatsApp groups that I am in. Those are even worse because suddenly, COVID-19 experts have emerged and looks like everyone has something to say…a lot of it is either lies or half-truths. It is all about opinions, superstitions and fake news. Social media is the most tiring and draining platform during this time. As an individual I realise I am a target audience to so many entities. We are all a fragmented audience, and everyone has a good intention to see that we survive this pandemic. But hey, it is too much information. How do we maintaing sanity despite all this clutter? I guess there are many of us feeling sick even without a single trace of the virus.
All said and done, I am determined to send you on Twitter. You must look for a guy called Yano. His Twitter handle is @JasonYanowitz. Here is an interesting link he posted two days ago. He has captured the real situation on the ground.
Stay safe…. won’t you?