“On December 31 of last year, the Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) of an outbreak of a novel strain of coronavirus causing severe illness. As of February 20, this year, nearly 167,500 COVID-19 cases had been documented, although many more mild cases have likely gone undiagnosed. The virus has killed over 7,600 people as of today.”
“Shortly after the epidemic began, Chinese scientists sequenced the genome of the virus and made the data available to researchers worldwide. The resulting genomic sequence data has shown that Chinese authorities rapidly detected the epidemic and that the number of COVID-19 cases have been increasing because of human to human transmission after a single introduction into the human population”.
Thereafter, the world has experienced unprecedented escalation of reported cases of the deadly virus. On 8th January 2020, the WHO said a cluster of more than 50 pneumonia cases in the central Chinese city of Wuhan may be due to a newly emerging member of the family of viruses that caused the deadly disease outbreak.
It appears that, every day or every other day, there is a news on increase in number of cases recorded somewhere around the globe. On 9th January this year, the China Central Television (CCTV) confirmed the novel coronavirus. According to the Chinese national TV station, this was known to be laboratory test results.
Almost all initial recorded cases had a link from the second largest economy in the world, China. On the 9th of January, a “61-year-old man dies from pneumonia in Wuhan. He tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was considered its first fatality. He was a regular buyer at a seafood market in the city — at that point, coronavirus patients were mainly vendors and purchasers at the seafood market. “No clear evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found.” According to the Wuhan Health Authority”
Again, on the 13th January, a Chinese woman was quarantined in Thailand, the first new coronavirus case detected outside China, and in 20th January China again confirmed human-to-human transmission of the virus after medical staff in Guangdong Province were infected.
The figures continued to soar around the globe and on the 30th of January, the WHO therefore declared a global health emergency. Inside China, the virus had at the time, infected nearly 8,000 and killed at least 170. It had also spawned 98 cases in 18 other countries.
On Thursday night Mar. 12, Ghana confirmed its first two cases of Covid-19. They were victims who had returned to the country from Norway and Turkey. The health Minister said both patients were in isolation and the Government had initiated processes for contact tracing. One of the victims was identified as a Ghanaian and had travelled from Turkey.
This is just by way of a brief history of the almighty COVID-19 aka coronavirus. To date, Ghana has recorded seven cases of the coronavirus with no death. From this stage, there has been a very vibrant media activity in relations to information and education of the citizenry on the deadly disease.
The media in Ghana has done tremendously well in helping to disseminate information and education on the diseases.
Space will not allow me to mention media houses where vibrant and consistent education and information have taken place. In deed the Ghanaian media has worked closely with the Government and the Ministry of Health, for that matter, to help bringing information to the general public.
Generally, the media play crucial role in disseminating information including health information. This is done to help increase awareness about health education. It has helped in diverse ways in the area of health education and information.
The media has been instrumental in the success of all health policies and programmes in the country. Counting from the days of influenzas, brululi ulcer, malaria, HIV, tetanus, chickenpox, schistosomiasis, measles, anthrax, cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, several kinds of pneumonia, infectious hepatitis, yellow fever, dysentery, venereal diseases and poliomyelitis and other public health issues, the media have been at the very forefront of education and information dissemination to help curb all forms of public health matters in the country.
When the Government declared maternal mortality rates to be a national emergency in 2008 and introduced a programme of free maternal health care, which included extending the National Health Insurance Scheme to cover the provision of ante-natal, infant delivery and post-natal care, it was the media that heralded and promoted the cause for its success.
The Ghanaian media has not only spread awareness, importantly, they have also vigorously informed and educated the populace during these unusual times. Obviously, this ultimately helps in the change of attitude and behavior of audience for achieving better health.
For instance, basic hygiene practices have increased among the people. The use of hand sanitizers, frequent handwashing, good diet, the need for a good rest among many other health tips have been propagated by the media to help the behavioral change that the nation urgently needs.
The media have also been providing news from early outbreak zones across the nation. It is also in the business of widely disseminating stories from foreign news outlets, statements from foreign leaders, and first-hand accounts from residents of affected areas abroad, thus keeping the citizens well informed and educated about the disease.
These information and educational titbits by the media, have helped in giving the people a better sense of the scope of the threat posed by COVID-19 at a time when the messages coming from official channels were conflicting and confusing. The media also have illustrated the ways in which various social responses could play out, thus giving credence to calls for “social distancing”, for example.
Specific radio and television programmes have been tailored to the education and information of the masses on the coronavirus. For example, some broadcasting networks dedicated very peak news periods to provide titbits on the disease to the listening public. PEACE FM, among others take the credit for a giant stride in this. The State Broadcaster, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) for instance has carried almost all media engagements live on some of its networks.
Other print media houses have also dedicated space not only for news stories but importantly, on publication of educational and informational materials. There have been some of them proving as many as 8-page supplement of the disease for public information and education. The word on coronavirus has reached far and wide and precautions have been well disseminated.
Apart from the few exaggerations by some Akan news readers, by and large, the citizens have been well educated and informed and errors primarily due to translation, exaggeration and humor which are diametrically opposite to etiquette of news broadcast.
The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), knowing this forewarned its members in a press release but some of them did not adhere to the suggestion. The release said “fear-induced vocabulary that could create a state of alarm should be avoided.”
“As the World Health Organisation describes COVID-19 as a pandemic, the GJA urges journalists to adhere strictly to the Code of Ethics of the Association, which provides the best antidote for misinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories that have thronged social media outlets,” said the release.
The GJA reiterates that journalists’ responsibility towards the public must take precedence over any other consideration, the release said. It urged the media to increase public awareness of the situation through reporting that educates, warns and informs properly on the virus, adding that by so doing, they would be part of the solution.
This ultimately helps in the change of attitude & behavior of audience for achieving better health. In other words, media is instrumental in bringing behavioural changes in knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes about health and healthy behaviors.
The struggle is not over yet and it is not over until its over. Until then “aluta continua” let’s continue to do the needful and we shall surely succeed. For now, the Ghanaian media, by and large, have passed the test, Kudos.
Nana Sifa Twum