The Coronavirus, reported epicenter in China’s Wuhan province, grabbed the early 2020 global headlines and disrupted global political, social and economic networks. China, mentioned as an alternative to the United States hegemony and known for her keen attention to image management, had to deal with the worst crisis since the political Tiananmen Square.
Factors such as politics, economics, and social, have played an important role during the crisis. In China, where the Coronavirus erupted, huge financial and technological investment played a pivotal role in managing the tide. In Africa, regarded for inadequate financial and tech resources, a heavier focus has been on the mobilization of political and social networks.
To be out of the woods, pandemics come with an appetite for relevant data and information. Like in all crisis conditions, diagnosis templates have to be assembled, by Adhoc and multi-sectoral teams, administered and evaluated. The ability to bring together and inspire a multi-faceted pool of expertise emerges. What China did, for example, was to leverage on property and capital outlay together with soft skills such as data gathering and analysis.
Eliminating new cases, being the ultimate objective, requires the strategic scaling up of knowledge provision. When, as often happens, competing political, economic and social interests are not compatible devastation may occur. The major challenge, that places extra demands on information the processing chain, arises when the communication dilemma is inadequately addressed.
Crisis communication demands a systematic approach in an unsystematic setting. No entity, due to the suddenness of crises, can claim expertise. Everyone, in the prevailing circumstances, has an ‘expert’ opinion. The resulting communiqués are characterized by chaos. For crisis communication to be effective, systematization – within time and resource constraints – becomes a priority. Crisis communication sets out to bring order by establishing credibility and defining rules of communication fair play.
During outbreaks, owing to limited information, communities are vulnerable to panic which may exacerbate the situation. Information packages should, therefore, take cognizance of the potential impact of disseminated information in militating against unnecessary panicking. Crisis communication is skewed towards the provision of knowledge, over and above, information. Knowledge empowers people to make sound decisions to reduce negative exposure. Crisis communication is ongoing and dynamic to reflect the lifecycle of the crisis.