Zim’s Coronavirus awareness requires more digital presence,engagement

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

There has been so much concern over the outbreak of Covid-19 popularly known as Coronavirus which has so far claimed the lives of more than 2 500 people mainly in China and infecting more than 80 000 people worldwide.

This has whipped many countries to put in place measures to protect their citizens and also raise awareness on the preventative methods against the ravaging Covid-19.

Is Zimbabwe Safe? 

Zimbabwe is equally concerned   with the deadly virus given that a number of its citizens are dotted across China and that many do travel to the world’s 2nd biggest economy. The minister of health Obadiah Moyo urged Zimbabwean citizens not to travel to China until the outbreak is contained   and this was covered extensively in the local media and on the various social media handles of the ministry of health.

Social Media Abuzz 

There have been various false information on the Coronavirus carried by some online publications on cases of Coronavirus while on popular platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook citizens do crack jokes about the deadly disease. This has led the ministry of health to respond on its social media handles to dispel the false messages on February 15 saying,  ”There are no cases of Coronavirus and Zimbabwe is on high alert with the national preparedness and response system having been activated. The three major airports, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, and Victoria Falls, have all been assessed for their readiness, especially facilities for travellers’ screening, quarantine, and isolation,”.

Digital awareness inadequacy 

While the ministry of health has made use of the traditional media mainly to convey awareness to the public on the Covid-19 , very little has been done to tap into using digital means. According to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), the country boasts of over 80% mobile penetration which then shows that many citizens have access to a mobile phone.

The relevant ministry should have taken advantage of this to update citizens on the virus-what are the symptoms and the preventative measures. This could be done by using the bulk SMS(Short Message Services),Twitter and Facebook.

Lessons from the Cholera Outbreak

When the Cholera outbreak hit in 2018 citizens were inundated with SMS on how to prevent being infected with the disease to the extent that people were now complaining that they were now annoying. The same should be reciprocated to enable citizens to be well-appraised on the Covid-19. While in 2018 the messages were conveyed mainly in English , it will be prudent for the ministry to factor in vernacular languages.

Internet governance advocacy makes sense

The inadequacy in using digital platforms in the face of Coronavirus and in last year’s Cyclone Idai and the Binga Floods makes the call to make internet accessible noble. Internet is now a way of life and the government and the corporate world should strive to allow citizens to access it. The Ministry of Health and Child Care, Zimbabwe should have been compelled to use all digital platforms to convey Coronavirus messages had the citizens been made aware of this fundamental right.