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Defeating COVID: Ensuring information flow!      

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The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has created a global health crisis that has had a deep impact on the way we perceive our world and our everyday lives. Not only the rate of contagion and patterns of transmission threatens us, but the safety measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus also require social distancing which means refraining from doing what is inherently human. Within this context of physical threat, social and physical distancing, as well as public alarm, what has been (and can be) the role of the different mass media channels in our lives on individual, social and societal levels?

Mass media have long been recognized as powerful tool for shaping our experience, inducing behavioral changes, creating mass awareness and spreading verified information. This recognition is accompanied by a growing volume of research that highlights the significance of mediums of mass communication including internet, newspapers, radio, movies, television etc.

Are media (broadcast and digital) still able to convey a sense of right information reaching large audiences, or are messages lost in the proverbial ‘noise’ that refers to a wide range of obstacles including bias, misinformation, sensationalism, propaganda besides technical noises like bad signal, poor quality, interruptions etc? Though there isn’t an easy answer to this given the kind of variety of media that we have, we however cannot ignore the fact that these channels of communication and information still enjoy the largest audiences and reach to nearly every nook and corner of the world.

We, therefore, have to, and must, harness the flexibility and ubiquity of media technologies to increase the public’s adherence to the safety measures suggested by global health organizations to combat the spread of the pandemic and to promote adaptive responses to foster positive health attitudes and adherence to preventive measures.

Some of the guiltiness issued by WHO and other healthy related organizations say that regularly and thorough washing of hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water reduce the chances of the spread of infection. There are other guidelines that include maintaining physical distance, avoiding going to crowded places, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth and following good respiratory hygiene.

Though the information may seem repetitive given the kind of publicity the health guidelines have already achieved, but one is not sure whether the same have reached to the masses living in villages, remote areas etc. A country like India with a huge population and substantial portion of it below poverty line, has to ensure that underprivileged people are also made aware regarding these guidelines. It is a huge task, but it is what needs to be done to ensure that precious lives are saved!

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