Has the Media Exaggerated the Extent of the Coronavirus Outbreak

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Today, people all over the world are scared and overwhelmed by the various news reports on the swift spread and dire effects of the new Coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new virus strain that was discovered in 2019. On March 11 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a worldwide pandemic. The most common symptoms of infection include breathing difficulties, fever and cough. There is currently no cure and chances of patient recovery are contingent on the strength of an individual‟s immune system. The disease can cause kidney and lung failure, severe acute respiratory syndrome, pneumonia, and even death (WHO, 2020).

From January 2020 there has been intense media coverage of the spread of the disease with most of the reporting focused on the rapid contagion, increasing death toll and the disturbing fact that there is currently no vaccine. Some people claim the media have overhyped the Covid-19 outbreak and blame alarmist, wall-to-wall coverage for the fear, economic uncertainty and stockpiling witnessed over the past few weeks – this is an unfair accusation. The media has not exaggerated the extent of the coronavirus outbreak, but in fact the responsible media coverage has not only provided useful information to a scared audience, but has also helped mitigate the spread of the disease by sensitizing the public on best practices for reducing the virus‟ spread and by successfully pressuring political leaders into taking drastic action to combat the spread of this new pandemic.

Covid-19 has proven to be highly contagious and deadly, in the face of such a global threat the media has served an important public service by keeping people well informed and very much alert to the impending danger, as such, the intense non-stop press coverage of the extent of the Covid-19 outbreak should be applauded, not criticized. The virus emerged in December 2019 and by 29 March 2020, there were 680,583 confirmed cases and 31,914 deaths in 199 countries (WHO, 2020). These statistics clearly show the gravity of this unprecedented situation and a focus on these alarming numbers by the media should not be deemed an exaggeration. Given that this virus currently has no vaccine, it is only natural to spend an inordinate amount of press time and resources reporting on such a deadly threat. Before 2019 the virus had never been detected in humans so when the outbreak began, governments and individuals struggled to deal with the rapid spread and the newly infected patients. Initially there was very little information available and the ensuing uncertainty and ignorance led to numerous deaths in China and Italy.

Today, the handling of the Covid-19 outbreak has improved thanks to greater press coverage, daily press conferences by medical and administrative authorities and updates on recently discovered methods of Covid-19 spread prevention (Bourgi, 2020). The extensive media reports and warnings have helped sensitize people all across the world and now most individuals are well informed on most aspects of Covid-19, people now know what adjustments they need to make in response to the threat posed by this new virus. Furthermore, the media has done its job by reporting precise information even if this information is scary or overwhelming to the public. Covid-19 is a ‘once in a generation’ global pandemic, and current media coverage accurately reflects that.

The media deserves a great deal of credit for the recent improvements in governments‟ coronavirus policy; the intense media focus on the extent of the outbreak and the media‟s pressure on governments pushed political leaders to take unpopular but necessary action to combat the spread of the new virus. In spite of the rapid spread of Covid-19 across China in early 2020, there was very little media interest until around Jan. 20 – the date of the first case on U.S. soil. Once the media took a keen interest in this matter, only then did leaders in other countries around the world begin to take reactive and preventive measures.

For instance, since February 2020 the United States (U.S) media has increasingly criticized the Trump administration‟s initial tepid response to the virus‟ spread. During this period, the U.S president has been mentioned in a third of all U.S. Covid-19 press coverage (RealClearPolitics, 2020). The media‟s focus on the extent of the coronavirus outbreak and constant media pressure on the White house led to a drop in the president‟s approval ratings (Forgey, 2020), causing the Trump administration to radically change its approach: closing schools, shops, banning public gatherings and getting the U.S congress to pass legislation for a massive spending to deal with the new virus. Similar situations have unfolded in most countries around the world.

As shown in the above example, the wall to wall media coverage of the extent of the outbreak and the media’s pressure on political leaders forced them to take drastic actions they might not have taken before. As such the media clearly has not exaggerated the extent of the coronavirus but has rather made a positive contribution toward improving the management of the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Has the Media Exaggerated the Extent of the Coronavirus Outbreak. (2021, Sep 29). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/has-the-media-exaggerated-the-extent-of-the-coronavirus-outbreak/

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