South Africa: Coronavirus and the media

March 20, 2020 • Ethics and Quality, Recent • by

South African media are mainly concerned with whether the country’s health system will be able to cope with large numbers of infected people.

The initial response to the first confirmed cases of Covid-19 in South Africa was for people to make jokes about it on social media. South Africans have a tendency to joke about the various challenges they face, and in this case too they used humour to take the sting out of an alarming situation.

Here as elsewhere, as the seriousness of the pandemic became evident, media stories focused to a large extent on the numbers of people infected, though there were also many news reports about panic buying and stockpiling.

Another major theme is doubt over whether the country is ready to cope with large numbers of people requiring hospitalisation, given the strain that the public health system is already under, given the high incidence of HIV and TB. People with those conditions also have a compromised immune system.

Ethical concerns have been raised in the media over the question of anonymity, given the public interest need to trace possible contacts of people who have tested positive for Covid-19. Disinformation is also a problem, with rumours and conspiracy theories circulating online and on mobile phones.

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