Image via Getty
Image via Getty

Peter Williams: Losing faith in our media and its framing of COVID

Peter Williams 03/03/2021

OPINION: We had another day of zero cases in the community yesterday. That’s three in a row. Now I don’t want any community cases on any day. You don’t either. But aren’t we beginning to have a credibility problem here? 

A level 3 alert in Auckland since Sunday. Hundreds of close contacts, casual contacts, casual plus contacts - whatever they are - all required to be tested or isolated or both. But no cases. Is this thing that serious? Is anybody getting really sick with it? Nobody’s in hospital because of it. 

We are constantly told how this disease is still rampant overseas. In fact, there was a line on a Newshub story last night that went “with Covid mutating and surging overseas, the threat at our border has never been greater.” Now it may be mutating, but surging? I think once again a few facts are in order here. I know a lot of our politicians don’t like facts, but I think they’re quite important.

Let me tell you what’s happening with Covid in various places around the world. In the US, where there have been more cases than anywhere else, the seven-day rolling daily average of cases on January 11th was 249,501. Now it’s 67,760. In the UK, the numbers were 59,828 on January 8th, now they’re 8,007. In India they were 93,180 on September 17 last year, that was the peak, now the number is 13,686. In South Africa on January 10, the daily average over 7 days was 19,042, on February 28th it was 1371. In Australia, where it peaked at 551 cases per day last August, the number is now 7. Do you get my drift? 

The numbers are dropping dramatically, all over the world. Yes, the virus is still very much among us, but for news reports here to tell us that it is surging overseas is just not true. Evidence everywhere tells us the number of cases is dropping dramatically. It might be the vaccine, it might be that less people are being tested but the numbers from pretty much any website tell us that fewer people are testing positive.

A headline in the Daily Mail in Britain today reads “End of Covid crisis by Easter - Britain’s deaths fall by 40 percent in a week” and the article quotes official Department of Health numbers in Britain which say the cases were down a quarter week on week from the second to the third week of February. Is this not the story we should be hearing? That things around the globe are improving? 

But what we keep on getting is the opposite. It’s as if our news media want to join the government in scaremongering. Why would that be? Is it that hard to present what appears to be pretty obvious truth?

And then there is the matter of what advice was given to the young woman, who is known as Case L, who worked at KFC at the start of last week, and who has copped a whole lot of abuse for going to work when the Prime Minister said she shouldn’t have. 

Now it appears the young woman, Case L, was indeed telling the truth. Remember she said the advice was for family members of Papatoetoe High School students regarded as casual plus contacts - there is more jargon every day, is there not - was that those casual plus contacts should isolate and get a test, but that their family members did not need to. The Prime Minister said the family was advised otherwise with a letter. 

Now a Facebook comment from the Ministry of Health’s official United Against Covid 19 page has indeed backed up the young woman’s version because the advice for family members to isolate was not made till February 23rd after the shift at KFC had been completed.

The Facebook comment has been widely circulated this morning, including by ACT leader David Seymour. 

So let’s not pile on people in South Auckland, eh. To say the advice and the communications from the Ministry of Health have been confusing is bordering on understatement. At least somebody in the Ministry is honest enough to admit the mistake - unlike others. 

Peter Williams is the host of Magic Mornings, weekdays 9am - 12pm on Magic Talk.