Together We Can: Sharing Covid-19 Measures & Experiences via WJC 2020
The year 2020 will go down in history as the year when the world came to a standstill. Covid-19 has changed the way we live, work, eat and sleep. Despite this slow pace and changing cultures, the Journalists Association of Korea kept its annual ritual of a global conference for promoting peace between the two Koreas alive. Since 2013, the association has been inviting journalists from across the world to showcase their country, share their efforts to promote peace between the two Koreas and turning the World Journalists’ Conference into a remarkable global platform for public diplomacy and exchanging news and views. I was an esteemed guest in 2015.
I saw the beautiful nation for a week and came back with more beautiful memories. And then in August 2020, I received an invite to attend World Journalists’ Conference 2020 via Zoom. Not the one to miss a chance on what colleagues across the world were doing, I marked September 14–16 on my calendar. There were three sessions for three hours each. Among the most disciplined nations, this was a splendidly organized exercise. It began with two rehearsals, one alone and one with the group. Since the reason the country didn’t go for a physical meet is Covid-19, the second day focused on the way countries handled this pandemic. In this post, I am sharing the positive takeaways from Covid-19 — the opportunity for all nations to share their success model and be supportive of each other.
Why am I penning this? The reason is simple — journalists are the eyes and ears of any country. They live life on a day-to-day basis. They experience first hand, they are the voice of the experience that someone shares on trust. It is the combination of trust and honesty that makes for correct information and that can help others make wise decision.
India began its battle with Covid-19 with a 24-hour curfew on March 22 and then went into a full-fledged stringent lockdown on March 24. This was to last till April 14 but continued for months. There has now been relaxation of norms in many areas, but the nation still reels under the impact.
1. Other countries are facing the turbulence too. Habib Toumi, who works as a Media Consultant with Ministry of Information in Bahrain, pointed out the world wasn’t prepared for this. Governments were taken by surprise, which later turned into a shock. This helps us understand that the entire world is combating the same enemy.
2. The initial days of the pandemic were full of curiosity. We watched news stemming in from Italy as it became an epicenter, fatally struck by this pandemic. China became the focus and memes and experts discussions started changing public opinion. Under this shadow, it was heartening to know what CHEN Yingqun, Senior Reporter, China Daily, shared about receiving a postcard from a man in Italy. “Since the outbreak of the virus, I and my colleagues at China Daily have done a lot of coverage about the coronavirus and its devastating influence on economies and society. And one of the most touching moments is one night in May, we found a postcard in China Daily’s mail office, which is from a man named Frank Mantova from Bologna, Italy. He mailed the card on Jan 29, when China was amid the most difficult stage in its battle against the virus, to express heartfelt wishes to the Chinese people. It is heartwarming to read the sincere wishes that travel more than three months to reach us, and it is also proud that our newspaper has been trusted as a messenger.” Such examples are important to know that we are combating an invisible enemy and these positive incidents need as much as attention as masks and sanitizers.
3. Hassan Humeida, Doctor at University of Kiel, Germany, shared, “The different approaches,whether they are about closing borders, isolation or hygiene measures, vary in intensity from country to country.. The corona will certainly not be the last infection of its kind. The world should be prepared to continue to need each other. Each country should benefit from the other from their innovative systems, for example through the establishment of functioning systems in the field of health and prevention…” This ideology of helping and standing by each nation is exactly what we need and I believe that the purpose of WJC is achieved when we speak the same language.
4. Report and talk responsibly all the time — we need to remember this at every step. We have to do this all the time so that we don’t become victims of false claims and fake news. Hayim Iserovich, Foreign Affairs Correspontdent, with Maariv Daily in Israel, rightly said, “The bottom line, in every crisis — especially in that kind of one-in-a-hundred year crisis — the media has an important and crucial role in reporting, explaining, and demanding full accountability in the name of the public. But it also needs to remember not to exaggerate the real picture or give space to spreaders of fake ‘facts’, but to present the public with the most updated, completed, and reliable information.”
5. The rapid spread of the virus in Italy was scary. Each day seemed to only highlight the plight. But now the country has highlighted the resilience of its people and the amazing healthcare staff. Moscatello Antonio, Journalist with Askanews News Agency in Italy, shared, “But in the months of the lockdown — from March to May — Italians adhered very strictly to the tight rules dictated from the Government. It was amazing to view the normally crowded streets of Rome, Naples, Milan, Venice, completely empty. No people walking, no shops open. And even now, many people are using masks also in open places when is not mandatory to wear protections. Social distancing, for Italians, is somewhat unnatural. But they adopted social distancing, and many months later, they are still respecting, to some extent, these rules… Another key to understand the bright side of the Italian response to the COVID-19, is the deep sense of commitment of medical class and health operators. In the most affected area of the country, nurses and physicians worked without rest for days and days. They created COVID-wards in the hospitals, and in some case, they formed rapid response teams going to the residence of patients to treat them…”
6. Here are models that can be replicated and countries which have been constantly learning and improving even without a pandemic. South Korea is cited among the most successful countries in containing the spread of Covid-19, as is Georgia. Jun-Wook Kwon, Director, National Institute of Health, Ministry of Health & Welfare (MOHW), Korea, gave a presentation on the various stages of alert and quickness in response by the government. Hye-Gul Hong, CEO of You Tube medical channel After the rain, talked about the crucial steps that controlled the spread.
- First, people are well-trained in wearing masks. In the process of quarantine, there was a possibility of an invasion of privacy such as public disclosure of personal travel history. In the case of high-risk groups such as large gatherings and club participants, even their personal communications were tracked through cell phone base stations.
- Secondly, it is the commitment of health care providers. In Korea, 90% of the medical services are provided in the private sector. Doctors in these private sectors have overcome the low medical charge imperatively set by the government by increasing working hours and improving productivity.
- The leadership of the Korean CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Through daily briefings, they reported the current situation in real-time and continuously emphasized the importance of wearing masks and keeping social distance. Also, by encouraging private companies to mass-produce diagnostic kits in the early stages and employing the movement tracking system with proficient epidemiological investigators, CDC was able to quickly identify confirmed cases and reduce the rate of dispersion. Paradoxically, the experience of swine flu in 2009 and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2015, which were two large-scale foreign virus outbreaks, was a huge help.
7. No one can live in isolation. Lan Cu, Editor-Deputy Head of the World News Desk, Dan Tri Online Newspaper under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Vietnam, pointed out the vital role played by the military. “…this was the first time in history that the military was mobilized to combat an epidemic… The Ministry of National Defense has helped in setting up check-points at a number of border gates and trails, building makeshift hospitals and state-run quarantine areas, spraying disinfectant, and receiving, caring and implementing medical quarantine for people entering Vietnam from virus-hit countries and territories.”
8. Good governance is the key to success. DJUMABAEV, Correspondent, Asian Journalist Association, Uzbekistan, said, “Despite the great challenges for its economy and social sphere the country is living with a motto: “Not a single person, not a single family in the country should be left without the attention and care of the state and society during the pandemic”…. With the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, there was created a nationwide movement, “Kindness and Support”. This community, whose members have already become thousands of entrepreneurs from all over the country, is actively contributing to the expansion of the targeted supply of needy families and temporarily unemployed people with financial assistance, food and medicine. Hundreds of thousands families received such support. In turn, the state is providing entrepreneurs supporting citizens with appropriate compensation through various taxes, leasing, loans benefits and preferences as well as access to necessary resources.”
9. Ashwaq Mohsen Naji Al-Atoli, Writer-Reporter, Alarabiya News Channel, United Arab Emirates, focused on commitment to eradicate. “The UAE became one of the first few nations to go ahead with human trials and reach phase III of testing a vaccine for COVID-19. The first Phase III trials of an inactivated vaccine for COVID-19 in the United Arab Emirates are among the largest in the world in volunteer recruitment having reached 31,000 vaccinated volunteers from more than 120 nationalities in only six weeks.”
10. To sum it up in the words of Kuber Chalise, Editor, TBi Publications Pvt Ltd (Publisher of Karobar National Economic Daily) Nepal, “There are some positive aspects of the COVID-19 also as it has also taught human beings to spend more on health, education and youth, apart from creating a new work culture. The coordination among the countries in fighting for the COVID-19 pandemic will create positive synergy for the future too.
COVID-19 has also forced the world to go digital, and the new-normal is supposed to create a faceless system that is going to lessen corruption in the third world country giving governments a space for more spending in health and education.
The common problem of the COVID-19 pandemic may also help create harmony among the nations, realizing the importance of unity in fighting such pandemic.”
Of course, the three-hour session had more speakers and more interaction. I have simply put some thoughts here.