Stop the fancy words in battle against Covid

Stop the fancy words in battle against Covid

The small drop in the number of new Covid-19 new cases to under 2,000 yesterday may look like a good sign.

But it doesn't mean we -- and our government -- can relax yet. A total of 1,871 new cases and 10 deaths in one day tells us there's still a long battle ahead.

While medical staff countrywide have worked hard to curb the third ferocious outbreak, the government is continuing with a failed communication strategy.

For over a year, we have watched the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) report shocking daily statistics on the numbers of beds "taken" and ending with same old line -- "Never lower our guard".

Why do we need to be live-fed with statistics of "new highs", successfully treated patients and "unfortunate" deaths? These figures could be displayed on websites, TV and radio without wasting money on airtime.

But the information provided on the CCSA website is also mind-boggling. It is a multi-figure chart in multi-colours --screaming for our attention and blurring our focus.

From the recent Thong Lor cluster, we've learnt nothing more from the news than the number of infections and thousands of proactive tests being carried out. Less has been mentioned about how owners of entertainment venues operated without permits and how it was that they were able to run their clubs near a hospital and a kindergartens.

I've got the impression that the government has spent more time spinning superficial data and coming up with catchphrases rather than seeking real solutions.

Since the pandemic began, our society has learnt new vocabulary coined by the CCSA -- SQ (state quarantine), ASQ (alternative state quarantine) and LQ (local quarantine). The word du jour in the third wave is "hospitel" (hospital-cum-hotel) along with recent abbreviations like "DMHTTA" (Distancing, Mask Wearing, Handwashing, Temperature Testing, Covid Testing and Mobile App).

I wonder how many Thai speakers grapple with these abbreviations and fancy terms, and I doubt whether the government or CCSA even care. Perhaps, the government doesn't really want to communicate with the people on the street. These words and abbreviations are coined to be deciphered and understood by international staff of the World Health Organisation or international investors. It is not the lexicon to use with real people, especially if it is to gain their trust.

The chaotic hospital admission process last week confirmed the communication meltdown. While the CCSA reported an increasing number of beds in "hospitels" and "field hospitals", it didn't discuss a system to send patients there. That left hundreds in limbo with many dying after waiting days for a bed. And the CCSA spokesperson had the gall to ask patients "not to give up" and "keep calling".

Unsurprisingly, the rich, the powerful and celebrities enjoying direct communications with those in power always found a bed.

The pandemic situation has spiralled downward to the level that the private sector, influencers and individuals have had to offer help to save people's lives, helping patients find and transport them to beds.

Asst Prof Tiamsoon Sirisrisak of Thammasat University recently posted on social media about how the government always fails to communicate with people and how state campaigns during the pandemic have flopped simply because the authorities keep on using fancy terms.

He recommended the government try a simpler method by hiring influencers to communicate or make announcements.

He suggested the government hire professional morlam artists to communicate with farmers in the Northeast, and influencers or YouTubers to communicate with other groups of people. Otherwise, we will only see media tools made for the middle class in the city.

These artists have their own fans and a knack of communicating through their music with local folks who will never understand what ASQ, DMHTTA and SQ are. Hiring influencers and artists would also provide financial help and jobs as many have been forced to stay home as all entertainment events have been cancelled.

I completely support Asst Prof Tiamsoon. If the government wants to communicate with the people, it must speak their language.

It's probably about time for the government to stop feeding us unnecessary information, fancy words, and start sincerely communicating with us. Only with plain and sincere talk will we find a way out of this crisis together.

Sirinya Wattanasukchai

Columnist

Sirinya Wattanasukchai is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.

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