Mike's Minute: Coronavirus hysteria is out of control

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 6 Mar 2020, 9:50AM

Mike's Minute: Coronavirus hysteria is out of control

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 6 Mar 2020, 9:50AM

I've got to say I have found this week draining and disappointing.

It started Saturday with the panic buying as a result of a single case of the virus in this country. I was genuinely astonished. That's not to say it hasn’t happened elsewhere because it has, but it’s a cop out excuse. Finding a bigger idiot than you, doesn’t absolve you from your own idiocy.

The media has been a profound, although sadly, not a completely unsurprising disappointment. Yes, once again, you’ve had insane examples offshore over headlines designed to scare, upset, and ultimately cause a click, but just because you can find a reprobate worse than yourself, that doesn’t justify your immersion into unprofessionalism.

By about Wednesday, I finally noted a handful of outlets starting to do what we began Monday. Use a few facts.

One of the most astonishing things to me was the global number of cases reported, wasn’t the actual number of cases, but a cumulative figure from the start. So the 94,000-odd was everyone added up, but it wasn’t explained that way, and it didn’t sound like that.

Why not? Why was I the only one to ask? Why was I the only one putting out the real, current number? Why was the the number of people who had it but now didn’t not published just as widely as any other number? Why was the number of those who were better not highlighted? Given that number was a mile bigger than those still sick.

Was it because it didn't suit the purveyors of drama? Why present fact, heaven forbid, positive fact, when an ongoing barrage of upset, alarmism, and drama was clearly far more appealing to the desire to attract readers, watchers, and listeners.

It is not a killer virus, as I read a number of times. It’s a virus that can kill, the same way a Toyota Corolla isn't a killer car. You need mitigating circumstances, in this case age and infirmity.

The vast majority of cases are mild, not serious. The vast majority of cases have always been in one province of one country, and that country has this week produced a dramatically diminishing number of cases. Outside the province within a population of over one billion people, the number of new cases is in single figures, and the deaths are zero.

Where have all these facts been?

The ultimate irony, of course, is parts of the media in this country are in a pile of trouble financially, the future is fraught. So what better time to step up and impress, but they reminded us what a bunch of shallow, clickbait obsessives they really are.

And the greatest tragedy is, of course, the economy. The fallout is not proportionate to the actual health facts. Fear has won, and the psychology of that fear has translated into real bottom lines, jobs, and futures.

We can't control a lot of it, but we can control our reaction. We can keep our heads, we can properly inform ourselves, and we can keep perspective.

We can do a lot better.