Do not lose hope: we can defeat the virus

Jack Ma: The Alibaba founder is leading the global fight against the coronavirus.

Should the media publish more good news? The Covid-19 outbreak is frightening and deserves our attention. But amidst all the doom and gloom, there are hundreds of encouraging developments.

The world is in trouble and the media is full of ominous articles and announcements. Schools across the UK are being closed. The European Union has shut its borders. The stock market is in free fall. Many people are going to die. As many are saying on social media: we get the picture.

But the truth is always more complicated. Bad news is never the only news. Even amidst the global struggle to combat the spread of Covid-19, there are inspirational stories and exciting discoveries:

Jack Ma’s chequebook: The richest man in China has decided to use his billions to help struggling medical communities around the world defeat the virus. He wrote: “To each of the 54 African countries, we will donate 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 medical-use protective suits and face shields.” He has also promised to provide the United States, which has been struggling to test people, with half a million coronavirus testing kits and a million face masks.

China’s turnaround: Though the Coronavirus outbreak started in the Chinese megacity of Wuhan, there were no new domestic cases there yesterday. Hospitals specifically set up to provide treatment to those suffering from Covid-19 have closed due to a lack of patients. A 103-year-old woman, who was infected, has recovered and returned home. Wuhan is proof that with the right measures, disaster can be kept at bay.

’s experiment: As the World Health Organisation reminded everyone: “test, test, test”. In one town, that is just what they did. Despite being the location of the first Covid-19 death in Italy, Vò has now completely stopped the spread of the disease. The town tested every single member of the community and quickly isolated them if they tested positive, regardless of whether or not they showed any symptoms.

Pandemic’s medic: Different companies and laboratories are now racing to develop a working vaccine. Though public release will take many months, scientists in labs in the US and Israel are optimistic and looking to begin trials. Meanwhile, according to officials in China, a Japanese influenza drug has been successful in speeding up the recovery of coronavirus patients with mild or minor symptoms.

Should the media publish more good news?

No news is good news

People need to have hope. We have constant access to the news. If we only hear negative stories, we will either be overwhelmed with sadness, or learn to stop caring. Constructive, forward-thinking reporting is not fiction. The positive stories just need to be heard more. Media companies should do a better job of presenting what good is being done to combat the crisis – and what we can learn from it.

The media has a duty to keep everyone informed. During a public health crisis, the focus has to be on the most critical developments, the hard facts, and little else. If there is good news that is important, then it should be published. But failure to present the world as it is can have deadly consequences. The information in an article is far more important than how it makes readers feel.

You Decide

  1. Do you find it difficult or upsetting to read the news at the moment? How would you make it better?
  2. Is news negative by definition? For instance, why do you think an act of violence makes a headline but an act of kindness does not?

Activities

  1. Sticking to mainstream news sources, find another encouraging news story about the coronavirus and summarise it on half a sheet of paper.
  2. Imagine you are a historian writing in the future. Using some of the information from this article, write a one-page description of how you imagine the world would successfully overcome this crisis.

Some People Say...

“The British nation is unique in this respect: they are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst.”

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), former British prime minister

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Of the 200,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 worldwide, there have been 8,000 deaths – but there have also been 80,000 confirmed recoveries. The number of new cases of coronavirus has been decreasing in both China and South Korea, two of the first countries to declare cases of the disease.
What do we not know?
How long any possible vaccine will take to be released (experts estimate between 12 and 18 months). We do not know if journalists see their job as providing anything more than simply balanced information. We do not know if there will always be enough good stories to provide relief during major crises like the coronavirus.

Word Watch

Ominous
Worrying, unsettling, scary.
Covid-19
The new disease caused by the coronavirus, which has spread to most countries around the world and killed thousands.
Testing kits
Most tests take a sample from a patient’s throat or nose and analyse this, looking for the DNA of the coronavirus. These are known as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests.
Wuhan
Large city in the Chinese province of Hubei, where the outbreak is believed to have started in a wild foods market.
A comune (municipality) in the province of Padua in the Italian Veneto region, with a population of around 3,000.
World Health Organisation
The United Nations agency responsible for global public health.
Influenza
Commonly known as “the flu”, an infectious respiratory disease caused by one of four types of virus. It is distinct from the coronavirus.

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