Coronavirus: Five Reasons To Feel Optimistic

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Much of the media coverage of COVID-19 is focused on bad things happening. It is very easy to accuse people of bungling when you have 20-20 hindsight and it makes good headlines, but is it right?

What can look like a fiasco from the outside is often very plausible if seen in real time and in the round. Zeroing in on the inevitable problems that crop up in a fast-moving situation, rather than trying to see the bigger picture, doesn’t really help inform the public and arm them with facts.

For example, much commentary about testing for COVID-19 is poorly informed. Testing is a complex issue that is as much about how tests are deployed and used as the type of tests or how many are available. We need to be clear about what questions we are asking about testing and how good the answers are likely to be.

Testing is critical to the relaxing of current social distancing measures so improving the knowledge about its strengths and weaknesses in the mind of the public is critical to success. In the end, we will only make relaxation of restrictions work if individuals have the information they need to make decisions about what is safe or unsafe.

The media has a critical role to deliver these important messages. Aggressive interrogation of government has its place, but it is unhelpful when it results in a defensive response, the tying up of resources and general distraction from solving the fundamental problem caused by this terrible disease. COVID-19 is not a political problem even if some people want to make it so. The only thing that will win if we politicise it is the virus itself, SARS-CoV-2.

To counterbalance negativity, I suggest we also need to look towards the positives so that people can see what has been done, what is working and how things might look in the future if we encounter a second wave of the virus.

1. COVID-19 is under control in many countries

The value of R0 – the average number of people infected by someone with the disease – was about 3 when the pandemic kicked off. Now it is down below 1 in many countries and probably also in the UK. This means the disease is under control and in decline. Even if there is still a long way to go to nail this disease down, we should not understate this achievement and what it means.

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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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