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Facts and information key in battle with coronavirus

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'Information about those hit by Covid-19, and people with whom they were in close contact, must be carefully guarded.' Photo: Chinatopix/AP

'Information about those hit by Covid-19, and people with whom they were in close contact, must be carefully guarded.' Photo: Chinatopix/AP

'Information about those hit by Covid-19, and people with whom they were in close contact, must be carefully guarded.' Photo: Chinatopix/AP

Verified facts are more usually user-friendly and the ordinary citizen must never be denied access to such information. This is an important point to keep in mind as we face the reality that the coronavirus, Covid-19, has inevitably landed upon our shores.

The myths - many of which are spread online - surrounding this malady are as pernicious as the condition itself. The potential resultant economic damage is huge, so the management of information is almost as important as dealing with people who fall victim to this outbreak.

The medical authorities owe a huge duty of care to people who are stricken with Covid-19. The comparison has been validly made between the care of those suffering from sexually transmitted diseases, where confidentiality is paramount, about information on those who may have been in contact with the sufferer. By extension, information about those hit by Covid-19, and people with whom they were in close contact, must be carefully guarded.

Beyond that inviolable obligation, which is reinforced by practical needs of containing a serious outbreak, there is also the need to keep the general public informed. Irish people's goodwill is central to this public health battle. And winning that battle means keeping the Irish public informed in a simple and factual format.

Unfortunately, many people feel that over the years they were not given the full facts in times of public threats comparable to these circumstances.

There is a justifiable popular fear that the medical administration authorities lean too far towards a view that the people need protection from their own fears, which might induce public panic. A 'do as I say...' approach to times of potential crisis often holds sway.

Then, sometimes, it later emerges that a less than full version of the situation has been put into the public domain. In an era when authoritarianism has been undone, and much information is but a few clicks of a computer mouse away, people must be given as much good information as possible.

In assessing these issues, we need to keep the Covid-19 economic fallout in mind. Last week, international stock exchanges closed with the worst losses since the economic crash of 2008.

Health authorities across the globe are struggling to get control of this terrible virus, which apparently incubates for at least 14 days before becoming evident. This one will have implications for the Irish economy, which had been motoring well up to now despite global economic storm clouds gathering in the middle distance.

All of this is happening against the background of slow and tortured coalition-making talks in Dublin. Potential government partners Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party fought the February 8 General Election on the basis of lavish promises.

Now, there are serious questions about how even a scaled-down level of these pledges might be delivered in a time of lesser growth driven by a virus-led global slowdown. Already we know that the various party leaders need to be more cautious and dial down their aspirations.

Irish Independent