Media could have played a more constructive role in managing COVID
Monika Singh, social worker from Himachal Pradesh, explains how media reports sowed the seeds of disinformation, suspicion and fear about the virus and the pandemic
Asocial worker in Una (Himachal Pradesh) Monika is married to a doctor and the couple have a daughter, who is a medical student.
“I had accompanied my husband to Chandigarh as he needed super specialty treatment in one of the private hospitals. It was during my stay there that I experienced symptoms that were typical of COVID19. The two of us decided that I should go in for a test and it turned out to be positive.”
“We decided that I should return to Una even as my husband remained admitted to the hospital in Chandigarh. I drove back to my hometown, informed the authorities and moved to an institutional quarantine centre, to which I was a frequent visitor as a social worker though I had never entered the centres earlier.”
“Authorities need to refer to them as ‘Nursing or Treatment Centres’ and not ‘Quarantine Centres’. There is such unreasonable fear among people quarantined that most of them fall prey to depression. Many have lost their livelihood and have financial worries. Being quarantined in these circumstances make it even more difficult for them.” Their feeling of helplessness is contagious, she quips.
“There have to be initiatives to divert their attention towards something positive. Even a one-hour spiritual discourse or music played to them on speakers can make a lot of difference. The most helpless are the elderly who are not comfortable with smart phones. They just look forward to their three meals and have nothing to do for the remaining time.”
“The second issue is of hygiene, sanitation and cleanliness. But frequent spraying of sodium hypochlorite is not good as many people are allergic to it.”
The media’s role has been far from helpful, spreading irrational fear and panic, adding to the stigma people have come to associate with COVID for no reason. Headlines in the Hindi TV channels and newspapers speaking of Corona ‘ Visfot’ (explosion) or ‘Kehar’ (devastation) are sensational, unwarranted and add to the people’s fear, she points out.
“In my case too, not even my neighbours came anywhere close to me or contacted my daughter to offer any help. Things are worse in villages and poor localities where people prefer not getting tested despite symptoms for the fear of stigma.”
With incomplete knowledge about the disease, they are consuming large quantities of ‘Kadha’, which is leading to other problems. To dispel false notions, community leaders and village pradhans must visit people who have recovered from COVID-19.
Celebrities who are commercially marketing oil and soap need to come forward and launch an awareness campaign to help people get over the unreasonable panic of Corona.
(As told to Rajeev Khanna)