The appearance of this opinion piece in Saudi Gazette is as interesting as its arguments are sensible: Facing the virus! The entire op-ed:
Saudi Arabia in general and residents of its coastal city Jeddah in particular, have been overwhelmed with very disturbing news about the spread of the coronavirus that has so far claimed 66 lives across the country. [now 69--CK]
What has been shocking and extremely disturbing are the countless stories and rumors that have spread just as quickly and just as aggressively as the virus itself. There was a great deal of panic, maybe a better word to describe the situation would be pandemonium. There was a clear lack of proper communication and transparency.
The problem has been a while in the making and not new (it has been over three years since the first case had been reported to be exact). One would have been assured and wished that at least there would have been a website, Twitter account and Facebook page dedicated to monitor the progress of combating the disease and revealing the status of each region as far as the number of cases detected, including the death toll as well.
There was hardly enough public statements to provide the press and the community with the required assuring information that would put all the whirling rumors to rest once and for all. It is obviously important to highlight that with the “arrival” of the virus to Jeddah, the challenge will be even greater as Jeddah is the point of entry and the gateway to the two holy mosques, which mean a huge number of non-stopping visitors around the year from all over the world. Simply a massive challenge!
Without proper preparations and adequate communication the consequences could be nothing short of catastrophic. The challenge and the issue at hand is communication which seems to be inadequate due to the over simplification of the matter for the fear of anxiety and panic a dedicated communiqué would cause. Well it seems that was not a proper conclusion because the “lack” of it has caused a greater sense of panic.
Saudi Arabia is not the first country to be facing a medical “challenge” of dealing with the spread of viruses and diseases. The Far East was recently entangled with dealing with the SARS, bird flu and swine flu. They did it with mixed results at best and this in itself should be a very important learning opportunity. To engage with the countries that faced such similar challenges and understand the mistakes they made and what did they do to improve the system.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel at all in this case. It all starts with better communication to bring people out of the dark and put an end to rumors.