It has now become somewhat of a spectator sport around the world to take pot shots at public health officials charged with responsibility for managing their nations’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Social media has made it easy for anyone with a smart phone or sitting at a keyboard to flippantly declare that those at the helm of the effort to prevent or control the spread of the coronavirus in their communities have not a clue about what they are doing.
This is unfortunate as the coronavirus pandemic may be one of the greatest challenges we ever face as a nation and success requires us all to work together in a community effort if we are to bring it under control.
In matters of public health and disaster mitigation, the outcome – whether success or failure — depends to a large extent on the extent to which there is buy in by all members of the community.
For example, since last year, we have been battling a dengue virus outbreak that has so far taken eight precious lives. We all know that the elimination of breeding sites of the aedes aegypti mosquito is a key component in the fight against the disease. But if a single resident of a village fails to clean up and rid his or her property of water receptacles, the efforts made by everyone else will be significantly diminished, if not futile.
Similarly, in the fight against the coronavirus, we must all be of one mind and keep focus on the single goal to rid our nation of Covid-19 infection. We are a small country, which in matters of public health is usually advantageous. But success depends on the willingness of every member of the community to work together – keep the protocols, protect each other, do our best to contribute to the solution, and not add to the problem.
Problematic behaviour against exists at all levels, from the man on the street who refuses to wear a mask or remain in quarantine or isolation, to the failure by those in authority to steadfastly and consistently enforce the protocols stipulated by the Ministry of Health.
It also does not help when at a press conference called by the very Ministry of Health to update the public on the coronavirus situation, that the handful of journalists in attendance are each limited to two questions and when clarifications are sought or follow-up questions attempted, they are rebuffed and shut down.
In the fight against Covid-19, every opportunity should be taken to ensure that as far as possible, the public (on whose behalf the media acts) understands the present situation, the plan to bring the situation under control and each person’s role in bringing this about.
The attitude displayed by the permanent secretary at this week’s press conference did everything to feed into narrative being peddled by some that information is being hidden from the public and nothing to help to build confidence and trust in the competence of the Covid-19 task force.
A press conference on a matter as important as Covid-19 must never be viewed as an unpleasant task to be rushed through. This is not a battle of the media against the Ministry. We are all in this together, working towards the same goal. Do better, Ministry of Health. We need answers and information that you alone can provide.