Coronavirus News Asia

And now the good news about media-fueled ‘panic’

The 21-day lockdown across India could be extended beyond April 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a videoconference with political leaders on Wednesday. A prolonged lockdown seems inevitable in worst-affected regions such as financial capital Mumbai.

Through such a deluge of bad news, Covid-19 also delivers legacy good news, more so as the world’s first micro-reported pandemic. Call it the virus version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Skeptics continue to scoff at the mass spread of “coronavirus panic” by the “media virus.” But “panic” was inevitable: This was the first pandemic to be born in the bed of a telecommunications revolution.

For this, thank goodness, our guardian angels, or the fool’s luck of a unique species.

No previous pandemic could be monitored in real time for 5.28 billion people with mobile phones, 3.5 billion smartphone users, 67.95% of the world’s population with a mobile device.

Unlike even the SARS generation circa 2003 reading the morning newspaper and seeing the evening news, the Covid-19 generation devours news updated minute-by-minute, 24/7. The news tsunami multiplies through information (and misinformation) spreading via 3.8 billion social-media users, with the average user having an account on eight platforms.

The key question is not whether we accursed media misfits are spreading panic. Instead, wonder how many more lives might have been saved if those earlier pandemics had popped up in such times of mass-media weaponry?

Covid-19 appeared at a time of traditional newspapers, television, media sites converging online into a hyper-synergy of billions of news consumers on Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, Instagram, Twitter – on hand-held devices.

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