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Can newsrooms tone down their coronavirus coverage while still reporting responsibly?

Coronavirus has appeared to be a global challenge for the governments, civil society and media. This challenge like anything else requires collective but responsible response to be dealt with. Can media play a role to facilitate governments in Pakistan and elsewhere?

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The death toll from the novel coronavirus passed 4,000 on Tuesday, according to latest figures compiled by the international news agency. The toll reached 4,011 in the outbreak that has spread to over 100 countries with more than 110,000 cases of infection. This outbreak has apparently forced the editors and reporters to use strong expressions and powerful adjectives to describe the critical scenarios. However, experts maintain that nothing—including the fear—should not create a panic-like situation which may lead to some serious challenges for the governments across the world.

As a matter of fact, this epidemic—Coronavirus— has disrupted global travel and forced the cancellation of everything from conferences to sporting events. But in China, new cases have steadily declined in recent weeks, in a sign that the country’s unprecedented lockdown measures appear to be working.

Sadly, the number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus ‘COVID-19’ infections in Pakistan has risen to 16 after nine more cases emerged in the southern port city of Karachi on Monday, March 10.

Karachi has been the worst affected city so far, with 13 of the total confirmed cases. The remaining 2 are in Gilgit-Baltistan and 1 has been reported from Islamabad.

Six of the newly diagnosed patients had returned to Pakistan from Syria via Doha, Qatar, while the other 3 arrived from London via Dubai. The first 7 diagnosed cases had traveled to Pakistan from Iran.

Read more: Coronavirus become threatening pandemic: WHO

Strict measures have been taken by the government, including extending border closure with Afghanistan for seven more days and installing screening machines at all major airports in the country.

The World Health Organization said Monday that more than 70 percent of those infected with the new coronavirus in China have recovered, adding that the country was “bringing its epidemic under control”.

And there were tentative signs in recent days that some of the measures to restrict the movement and gathering of people could be lifted, with some regions reopening schools or announcing dates to resume classes.

Read more: The Climate and the Coronavirus: Opportunities and risks

Most of the 16 makeshift hospitals opened in Wuhan have been closed — with the last two expected to shut Tuesday. And Shanghai Disney said it was reopening its shopping and entertainment Disneytown zone in the “first step of a phased reopening”, although the amusement park remains closed.

Al Tompkins, a senior faculty at Poynter, wrote an article and urged the editors and reporters to be careful while writing news about Coronavirus. He says that “journalists should remember — and emphasize — that coronavirus is, for most people, non-lethal. The World Health Organization said the disease caused by the new coronavirus has a 3.4% mortality rate. That is deadlier than the seasonal flu but the seasonal flu does not spread as easily. Most people who are exposed to coronavirus will have mild symptoms and some people might show no symptoms at all. That may be the trickiest part of this situation. People might not know they are spreading the virus because they don’t feel awful.”

It is yet to be seen whether the media helps governments deal with Coronavirus challenge or not.

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