A few weeks ago, the ministry of health decided that it would not mention in its daily communique whether the people that died from Covid-19 had underlying health conditions, as had been the practice in the previous 12 months. A sociologist, on a government advisory team for the pandemic, argued at the time that mentioning the underlying health condition diminished the respect that should be shown to the deceased and their families.
“The people who died were simply our fellow citizens who died from coronavirus,” he said, explaining that their health condition should not have been divulged. This was the theoretical explanation for the decision, but the practical one was that the ministry and its advisors believed the public would not take the Covid-19 deaths as seriously when it was mentioned the deceased suffered from underlying health conditions. This in turn could encourage people to disregard the safety measures imposed by the government.
As a result of this decision the ministry has created a new problem in the management of pandemic-related information. On Monday, seven Covid-19 deaths were reported and we were informed that three of the deceased were vaccinated – two women aged 82 and a man aged 52. News that vaccinated people had died from Covid-19 will undermine the government’s campaign to persuade people to have the jab. What would be the point, when vaccinated people, some aged only 52, are still dying, sceptics would rightly ask.
Had the ministry kept the policy of reporting if the deceased had underlying health conditions, it would be much better placed to counter the questions about the effectiveness of the vaccines that are now inevitable. How effective could they be when a vaccinated 52-year-old died from Covid-19? The man may have had underlying health conditions, which could have been the reason for the ineffectiveness of the vaccine, but the policy is not to divulge such information, which undermines the government’s campaign to get as many people as possible vaccinated.
In short, the decision not to mention the underlying health conditions, if they existed, has backfired, indirectly undermining the ministry’s vaccination drive. We suspect the next ministry decision would be not to mention if the deceased were vaccinated. After all, transparency has been one of the casualties of the pandemic as governments try to keep the fear factor alive by being selective with the information they give the public. But this policy, as we are seeing now, does not always have the desired results.