Proper information, Proper communication


This is a world dominated by information, loads of it streaming 24/7 often live and in real time from all sorts of sources. This truism has been most prominent ever since the Covid pandemic exploded on the global scene at the beginning of 2019. If anything, the volume of facts and figures, opinions, reports from the ground by journalists and the press, the public on social media, postings of videos recording debates and discussions that purport to help sift the wheat form the chaff – all these constitute a veritable ongoing tsunami which baffles lay persons. They are already confused by the controversies and uncertainties that surround every aspect of the Covid-19 phenomenon – for that’s what it is indeed – and are avid to get the proper information, properly communicated by the competent authorities so as to be guided as to how to cope in the right way.

It goes without saying that fake news and rumours find their way into this pot-pourri of information overload to further confuse and complicate matters for the common man who does not have the necessary knowledge to make out right from wrong. Hence the importance of reliable information from those responsible for managing the epidemic at country level: and that means the government. Because, as we have seen – in all countries – whatever is wrong or lacking with the handling of the crisis is laid at the door of the government, which receives little thanks not to say kudos for whatever it does. And that’s all the more reason for governments to have a clear-cut and pragmatic strategy of dispensing the right information in a timely manner and continuously both so as to guide and reassure the people as well as to maintain its credibility – upon which is built the trust of the people, and which facilitates government’s task upfront. In this way there is then no need to defend post facto decisions taken in good faith by the authorities.

A case in point is the issue of availability of medical oxygen. In a post on social media, the Prime Minister is seen to be explaining that the request to the French government for supplying oxygen is in fact being done to make advance provision for future needs, that is, to beef up preparedness. Had such information been communicated before, on the basis of ground intelligence which the government should have about the public’s apprehension based on whatever source of information, then the question would not even have arisen and needed such an explanation from the head of government.

Currently another matter which is posing as one of much concern to the public is that of the booster doses of vaccines, which are being dispensed at multiple outlets throughout the country. At different vaccination centres, there were long queues, and people were being turned away. Obviously, they were not happy about it after a long wait. When someone enquired at one such centre from an official, he was told that only 500 doses had been received for that centre, and he could not do anything about it.

It stands to logic that any centre will receive a fixed number of doses. But this must be made clear at the outset, and people given numbers though a phone-in system or when they reach so that other lining up can then be informed accordingly and re-booked, or re-directed.

Surely this is not rocket science?

This may seem a matter of detail – but as the saying goes, both God and the devil are in the detail. And addressing effectively such gnawing problems which matter enormously to the public makes all the difference for roll out of the booster programme as well as the image and credibility of government. There can be no shortcut to proper information that is properly communicated in a timely manner.

* Published in print edition on 23 November 2021

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