5 April. The communication from the Premier was dire. Without measures in Ontario – no self-isolation, no physical distancing, no 20-second hand washing –an estimated 100,000 would die over the course of the pandemic, which could last as long as two years. With those measures plus some even tougher ones, the death toll could be brought down to between 3,000 and 15,000. That is a relatively clear message – one hundred thousand, or 3,000 to 15,000 will die, and the number depends on all of us behaving as we are told.
The Premier ended his message: “So please, this weekend will be nice outside, and I know it’s hard to do, I know how difficult it is, but please, stay home. Help us write an ending to our story that we can look back on, that our future generations can look back on and be proud of.”
The weather on Saturday was indeed lovely, sunny and warm. Did people stay home? No, our street had many walkers, runners and bikers, and the little park behind us had just a little less of the usual dog walkers. So the message was either not heard, or heard and not heeded. Nothing to be proud about.
3 April. Today we await the press conference of the Premier of the province to give us the straight news about how bad it is likely to be. I will not watch, but will read it after the event. Video is too hot for me these days; print is a gentler mode of communicating unpleasant information. But I did make one exception – the recent speech of Angela Merkel to the nation, apparently a rare occurrence and therefore all the more powerful. To me her words seemed informative enough, instructive enough and calm enough not to be terrifying, although the speech was criticised by the Czech Prime Minister for risking panic. Compared to some of the incomplete, incomprehensible, erroneous communication on the virus, on the numbers and on the likely outcomes, her message sounded just fine to me. While on the subject of effective communication, Jacinda Ardern is notable for holding a special press conference just for the children of New Zealand to help them understand the global coronavirus pandemic. And still on the subject of communication, the repeated warnings about the need to “flatten the curve” could surely be improved upon for clearer, more forceful messaging.