A communication crisis?

“Can we go to the hospital?”

“Will there be a flight to pick us up?”

“Any symptoms with the guide and the driver?

The questions are many. And this is through messages, just to Kuensel on Facebook.  With the demand for information in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, Kuensel’s editors, reporters and the layout team are engaged in answering endless queries. We do not have all the answers and so refer them sometimes to the relevant agencies or direct them their websites.

If the questions are many and there are information. The only problem is it is not managed well and not channelled effectively.

Covid-19 has become a pandemic; the flow of information has caused an infodemic, an excessive amount of information. And this is not helping those who want information. It is creating confusion, misinformation, and even panic. The biggest irony is information to quell panic is exactly doing the same. This is a communication crisis.

Since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country, all eyes and ears are on the disease. Any information related to the new coronavirus is welcomed, shared and talked about.

This has led to competition among agencies to break the news first or share it. The sources are many and the temptation of relaying them through Facebook, the most preferred social media medium, has become hard to resist.

Any information, whether from the ministries, the prime minister’s office or other agencies is first released on Facebook, which is then shared and re-shared. Mainstream media picks it from there when missed or break it when it can independently confirm the piece of information.

Is it helping the purpose? It is a big no.

From the questions coming from people who really need information, it can be surmised that the way information is shared had not helped anyone except for giving a greater dose of dopamine, a substance the brain release when for instance you see your post on social media shared or liked. This is not the intention.

Some information leads to panic even if it is not intended. There is no ban on import of vegetables. The borders are closed but the government has measures to ensure supply. The panic-buying at all vegetable markets resulted from not having clear information or not disseminating it in the correct way.

We have recorded only three positive cases until today. All are imported. The precautionary measures have disrupted life. There are restrictions and people need information to get through their daily lives.

Each agency circulating notifications or announcements through Facebook is not helping anyone. What we don’t need today is misinformation spreading faster than new coronavirus.

What we could have today and sort out the information jam is a centralised dedicated agency or a website where all queries could be answered real time. That way, we need not refer people to Drukair for flight information, agriculture department for information on essentials, or the trade ministry on fuel or LPG.

A lot of problems could be solved with good communication management, which then could spare time, energy and resources for important agencies to focus on the problem.

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