Govt's handling of COVID-19 information has been problematic - Malan

| Speaking to Mia Malan, Lester Kiewit took government's poor communication around the repeal of COVID-19 restrictions to task.

With the the haphazard way that government has handled COVID-19 information generally, and the recent repeal of restrictions specifically, Lester Kiewit spoke with Mia Malan, editor of Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre, to isolate why this is problematic.

According to Malan, incoherent communication policy leads to unnecessary speculation and a breakdown of trust. Ultimately it means that the public doesn't know what to believe and the application of the important information is mitigated.

The sadness is, if you release gazetted regulations without an accompanying press release at midnight then you open yourself up for lots of speculation and uncoordinated release of information and that breaks down trust.

Mia Malan, Editor at Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre

Taking the point further, Lester enquired in the post-COVID analyses, how much of an impact has miscommunication and the failure of governments to effectively release information really had in hampering the pandemic response. Would things have turned out better if a more comprehensive and well-organised communication was available from the start? According to Malan, there have already been studies and surveys that show this to be true already.

So I think we have seen this already, some surveys and some studies that have come out, [have shown] that communication has had an effect on how much people trust governments when it comes to COVID. We have even seen a lack of basic information leading to a lack of uptake in services. There's been a Human Sciences Research Council survey that showed that many people didn't go for vaccination because they simply didn't know where to go. And that's a very basic form of information.

Mia Malan, Editor at Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre

Malan did, however add that it should be noted that pandemics by their nature are unpredictable and effective communications becomes very difficult when uncertainty enters the picture.

In fairness, we have to remember: pandemics are unpredictable things, so communication is a lot more difficult during such an unpredictable time, than during a time when you can plan your communication better.

Mia Malan, Editor at Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre

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This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Govt's handling of COVID-19 information has been problematic - Malan

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