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Coronavirus

The 4 most under-reported stories on the COVID-19 pandemic

PUBLISHED: Tue, 21 Apr 2020 13:45:40 GMT

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, media intelligence company Meltwater has been tracking some of the most talked about and reported topics on the virus around the world, as well as some of the stories that are not gaining as much media attention.

For more coverage on COVID-19 visit: https://www.cnbcafrica.com/covid-19/

The data report provided below has been compiled by Meltwater:

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, and news and social media conversations on the current pandemic continue to rise, much of the information reported on has had to do with the rising number of confirmed cases, the number of deaths and preventive measures that countries have been implementing since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

But did you know that since 1 January 2020 to date, there have been 26.1 million news articles, globally, reporting on the coronavirus, but just under 6 000 of those news articles are talking about a possible vaccine? As the global leader in media intelligence, Meltwater not only tracked the most reported on news and social media topics since the start of 2020, but also took a look into the 4 most under-reported on topics surrounding the coronavirus.

1. How the news is under-reporting on a vaccine

One of the first trending topics to emerge from the coronavirus was a vaccine, or lack thereof, and the potential  of a vaccine being created. While governments around the world are working towards treatment for coronavirus, this news isn’t making as many headlines globally.

While the process of finding a vaccine began as many parts of the world started to go into self-quarantine, researchers across the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries have started the global race towards making a vaccine, with just over 7 000 news articles mentioning ‘research’ with ‘coronavirus’ and ‘vaccine’, indicating that there is a slightly higher interest in news media on the research that scientists are doing for a vaccine than the actual potential of one being created.

With the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donating $100 million to help develop a vaccine, news articles are reporting more on this, with over 4 000 news articles already written between 1 March 2020 and 8 April 2020, in comparison to news articles that do not mention the foundation’s involvement.

Only on 16 March 2020 did ‘research’, ‘coronavirus’ and ‘vaccine’ gain more media exposure on in the news due to reporting on fake test kits and herbal treatments for the coronavirus.

One of the biggest themes to come out of news media mentions on the ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘vaccines’ is ‘people.’ ‘People’ refers to the impact on citizens of the world that a current lack of a vaccine has, but also what people should do while they wait for a vaccine. While some news articles are reporting that it could take between 12 and 18 months for a successful vaccine to be developed, the human impact in the interim could be devastating, especially from an economic standpoint.

‘AP Fact Check’ also emerged as a trending theme for news articles talking about the ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘vaccine’. This theme refers to the news articles that are debunking fake news around the coronavirus. Across the globe, there are only 532 news articles that have reported on this since the beginning of the year.

2. The silently positive social media response to a possible vaccine

On social media, there have been over 2 million mentions of ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘vaccine’ together, in comparison to the 223 million social media mentions of just the ‘Coronavirus’ since the start of the year. But when it comes to the general consensus around a vaccine for the Coronavirus, social media users don’t feel too positive or confident about it, as indicated by the data below. Between January and March, negative feelings have been growing for a vaccine, with 91% of social media mentions in March showing low confidence in the possibility of a vaccine, with social media posts referring to vaccine projects underway as well as better restrictions being a more feasible way of preventing the spread of the virus than a vaccine.

The announcement, in March however, where the USA signed a $450 million deal with Johnson & Johnson contributed to 94% of all social media mentions on ‘coronavirus’, ‘vaccine’ and ‘Johnson & Johnson’ showing little confidence in the vaccine project.

But despite the overwhelming adversity of a vaccine for the Coronavirus, March was the month where social media posts were mostly positive, in comparison to January and February.  While there were over 63 000  positive social media posts about a vaccine, and ten times more were of a negative sentiment, social media users are still hopeful that one is possible and well on its way.

3. Number of recoveries is also under-reported by the media

As news and social media continues to talk about growing concerns and the impact that the coronavirus has had on society in terms of restricted border entry, travel bans and disruptions to the economy, there have been far less media mentions when it comes to the recoveries that have been made.

With 26.1 million news articles talking about the coronavirus across the globe, just over 5 000 of those news articles have mentioned ‘recoveries’ in relation to the virus. On social media, while 223 million mentions have been made on the coronavirus, just over 8 000 of those mentions talk about recoveries, compared to the social media mentions that include ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘death’.

In the news, the USA remains as the number one country for reporting on coronavirus recoveries (53.81%). This is due to news articles reporting on the recoveries of influential people, such as singer, Pink, and actress, Linda Lusardi.

Nigeria and South Africa, respectively at 3.26% and 2,04%, are the top two countries in Africa to do the same, with Nigeria mainly reporting on the discharging of recovered patients, and South African news articles reported on the recovery of Patient Zero (the first person in the country to be infected with the virus) and Netball SA President, Cecilia Molokwane.

While social media mentions on the recovery cases have been few, the USA has been the number one country to engage in these conversations online (20.45%) and mentions not just recoveries from the virus, but how economies plan to recover from the pandemic. Nigeria is the number one African country to do so on social media (3.08%), with users sharing their experience of having the virus after recovering from it.

4. The importance of masks as the real influencers is under-reported

The sale of masks has seen a large increase in the wake of the global pandemic. And while it has been talked about in the media as a preventative measure, few news articles talk about how face masks have become a symbol of health in these times.

As one of the trending themes to emerge from ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘Recoveries’, ‘face masks’, ‘mask and gloves’ and ‘health mask hands’ refers to how these items, mainly associated with essential workers, are now playing a big part in preventing the spread of the virus among non-essential workers.

While influencers and celebrities have taken to social media to share posts reacting to the Coronavirus and wearing masks, the top social media posters, by reach, to mention ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘Recovery’ are ‘Kashmir Today’, a Facebook account providing updates on the Coronavirus to their online community, and ‘MyMeleTOP’ on Twitter, a Nigerian based account that wished Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson a speedy recovery after testing positive for the Coronavirus.

With seven out of ten people searching for details and information on the coronavirus on a daily basis, the online world has become a valuable source for updates on what is happening in the real world. While the attention around the coronavirus has grown significantly during 2020, other topics of interest have become whispers in the noise surrounding COVID19.

As researchers continue to look for a vaccine, and the world embraces face masks as a prominent symbol of prevention, the data behind the insights on what has been under-reported on in relation to the coronavirus does provide an opportunity to shed light on what news and social media may not.


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