Building public trust and improving communication between health officials, Barbadians and visitors on COVID-19 are at the top of the agenda for the newly established COVID-19 Health Communications Team.
And, Chair of the team, Ambassador Elizabeth Thompson, has promised the country “unvarnished facts” relating to the situation within the country, as it relates to the virus.
She gave this assurance last night during a virtual press briefing where she outlined how the team would be proceeding going forward to ensure that the country was properly informed, and armed with timely and accurate information.
“Government has a clear interest in being accurate with the information they are giving. The reason being that is the only way citizens can be protected and have certainty about what they’re going to do ….
“We are going to give you the facts. That is the only way we will have credibility; that is the only way trust can be built with national and international partners and stakeholders; and it is the only way that you, as Barbadians, people of all ages, from all over Barbados, can have confidence in what you are hearing, in what we are asking you to do, and in the information that we are giving,” Ambassador Thompson declared.
She described much of the information circulating on social media as “inaccurate, misleading and frightening”, which created panic and uncertainty among the population.
Ambassador Thompson outlined a clear plan of action to the country, which would see scheduled press briefings and conferences being held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. These are set to begin from Tuesday, January 12.
The Ambassador outlined that press conferences in the future would have a structured format, with key messages of the day being conveyed to the public.
In addition, there will also be a template for the information being presented to include facts on those who are ill, being quarantined, and actual numbers.
“The idea is to improve coordination and communication because there’s so many moving parts, so many government agencies that are working hard, playing a role to deal with the challenges,” Ambassador Thompson said.
However, should there be a breaking news item surrounding the pandemic, the COVID-19 Health Communications Team Chair has pledged to make herself available to the media via telephone to clarify matters.
“It also allows me to communicate with people who have a concern …. That is part of my role to help to build public trust, to help to guide our communication, so that there is certainty around what we are doing, so that the communication with the public is clear … because there have been concerns.
“There have been some criticisms as to the approaches …. Therefore, we want to be more timely; we want to have clarity; we want to build public trust with all stakeholders, particularly Barbadians at home and abroad, who have a vested interest in protecting their health and ensuring that Barbados is the best that it can possibly be,” she stated.
While urging Barbadians and visitors to trust that Government will keep them safe, the Chair reminded everyone that they too had a level of personal responsibility to keep themselves safe through their actions, and taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families against the virus.