Asked 1st Apr, 2020
What metaphors are explaining the COVID-19 pandemic and how do they impact on the approach that is being considered from public health?
Media discourses around the coronavirus pandemic tend towards metaphorical expressions such as the war against an invisible enemy, of the ecosystem balance so that the Earth returns to its original status. For this reason, expressions of legitimization of police and military violence have been seen to achieve social isolation. There are dangers in these metaphors since they do not focus on health education, but exacerbate autocracy and state violence.
Most recent answer
Popular answers (1)
All Answers (15)
The WHO framed Europe as “the greatest epicenter of the spread of coronavirus world-wide.” The CEO of WHO framed coronavirus as “the enemy of humanity,” and in Geneva on March 23, 2020, he declared about coronavirus: “To win a football match, it is not enough to defend; you also have to attack.” President Trump framed the way Americans are facing coronavirus as a “medical war;” at another occasion, he declared: “We are working together at full blast to contain this invisible enemy.” Angela Merkel framed coronavirus as “the greatest challenge since WW2.” These different categories to frame the coronavirus (challenge, enemy, medical war, invisible enemy, football match, defend, attack) evoke different frames or worldviews for viewers/readers of an otherwise health hazard. For instance, the frame for “enemy” includes mistrust, preparing to face up to it while “war” sets side by side two belligerents namely, a destructive microscopic one-entity enemy vs. humanity’s medical know-how, with no casualties on the side of coronavirus and a lot of human casualties or victims.
I agree that different metaphors require different social actions and medical treatments as per the entailments of every single one. But I do not see that these diverse metaphors are a direct legitimization of police interference. It is true that because of the high risk of contagion and lack of understanding and right assessment of the amplitude of the pandemic on the part of some citizens in the world, various authorities in various societies are actually enforcing what comes with states of emergency for the sake of common benefit and human life safeguard.
I think you are right.
While war metaphors used to describe the pandemic serve by now the useful end of making (many) people perceive the necessity of changing behaviors to spare their lives (and the various national health services), at the same time they the tend to legitimize of police or military interference in private lives, as several countries show.
However, humanity seems in real danger by now, so these metaphors are effective, and in my opinion difficult to be replaced at least in the short run. To minimally counterbalance their negative effects (fear that makes people aggressive and insane), all aspects that enlighten the possibility given by the pandemic of a different collaboration between people and countries could/should be emphasized ...
I am aware of some of these metaphorical expressions. Currently, the predominant and most widespread form is the war metaphor. The example of Trump, who named the virus as "the Chinese virus", suggests that there may be an intention to create conditions of rejection and hatred towards specific enemies, China in that case. In contexts of insecurity and fear, this can lead to concrete forms of violence, xenophobia, and racism. This discourse has been widely used in other contexts of war through cinema.
A major concern that emerges with the implementation of different measures of social isolation is that violence against those who breach them is justified, making them public enemies. Examples have been seen in Ecuador, where people have been beaten to punish them going out on the street.
I found the following examples:
- Fighting COVID-19 Is Like 'Whack-A-Mole,' Says Writer Who Warned Of A Pandemic.
- How COVID-19 Is like Climate Change. Both are existential challenges
- As COVID-19 Crashes the Economy, Workers and Business Owners Wonder If Anything Can Save Them From Financial Ruin.
- Brooklyn hospital treating coronavirus patients is "like something out of the Twilight
- Coronavirus is like a blackout that has caught half the world off guard in ...
Here there is a beautiful paper (in Italian, though!) concerning precisely the necessity/opportunity to substitute the war metaphors with metaphors concerning the idea that we have to take care of ourselves...hope it gives hints!
Happy easter to everyone!
The war metaphor identifies an enemy, the virus, and places a number of responsibilities on it, and not on internal human errors. But at the same time it authorizes the use of extraordinary powers, necessary, in part, to have quick responses. However, I believe that the correct metaphor is the health defeat, for the inadequacy of the health structures in almost all countries, and for the errors (or weakness) of the WHO. The defeat would make it possible to incite the need to react.
But we always turn around war concepts, because they represent the "extraordinary condition" of the countries. One of the mistakes that accompanies the war metaphor is that it takes part of the "alliances" into account, but without seeing the problem in a global way.
Not to mention the war against the social crisis that is coming.
Aldo Amirante Thank you very much for your reply. I think you suggest two ideas. On the one hand, that the enemy is not the virus; I think your point is provocative because it escapes from the war metaphor emphasizing the ability of Health Systems to prevent and respond to natural and social phenomena, in this case the coronavirus, we already know that countries are organized in a way different and that strategy is what has allowed different effects of the crisis. On the other hand, it is true that the current situation is unusual and requires prompt and agile solutions; advantages have been noted in the war metaphor, I do not fully understand his expression that alliances are not approached "in a global way".
Virus is the problem, not the enemy. The War metaphors distracts people from the inadequacy of State Health Systems, and international cooperation in Health, in a globalized world.
There's a light cooperation between states, but each country prefers to follow its own way. I do not see a global strategy, while the virus does not respect the frontiers.
Aldo Amirante That is a good example. Among the characteristics that have caught my attention is the individuality of the responses of the countries to the current emergency. Recently Vladimir Putin argued that the "save yourself who can" attitude of European countries exemplified what for him is the fallacy of the European Union. For the closest case, in Central America it has been impossible due to many factors to articulate an integrated response at the regional level, attempts were made but the presidents of several countries (El Salvador and Nicaragua) did not participate in the plan to unify regional actions. Returning to the point of the war metaphor, it is evident that no true "alliances" have been formed and that the collaboration of some countries (the case of Russia with Italy) showed a political nuance. I recently saw in a newscast that Romania has had trouble buying lung ventilators because it has few resources in the competition, while countries like Germany can, and do, pay three times the normal price. However, you also have to think about the group of scientists. On the one hand, there is literally a "war" against the clock to produce the vaccine, is this for economic purposes? On the other hand, the collaboration between doctors, microbiologists, virologists, geneticists ... has allowed us to transcend national borders to understand on a global scale the characteristics of COVID-19. Could we bring the metaphor of war to science?
One reputable media outlet in Australia (I know that sounds like an oxymoron) explained it as "the virus doesn't spread, people spread the virus". I thought that was a good educational point of view that equally made the point if not better than referring to it as any of the above fear centric examples.
Similar questions and discussions
Can artificial intelligence replace future architects?
- Mahdiyeh Afshar Bakeshloo
With artificial progress, is there any need for designers and architects anymore? In your opinion, in which parts can artificial intelligence be replaced and in which part designers and architects?
Will creativity still remain in architecture despite artificial intelligence?
If there is a book about these topics, please write.
What do you think we should do to create a global society that will be less vulnerable for future pandemics to occur?
- Carijn Beumer
What do you think we should do to create a global society that will be less vulnerable for future pandemics to occur?
Being right in the middle of the COVID-19 storm, everyone is hoping for a quick fix such as a vaccine. In his blog Martin Paul suggests that finding a magic bullet has the highest priority. We, the Global Health Team at Health Ethics and Society of Maastricht University, don’t want to question the priority of working on acute and effective medical solutions in itself, however, with regards to framing the crisis, some more nuances can be made. Do we really just have to sit and wait, complying to some frustrating public health measures, for the new Nobel Prize candidate, like Paul Ehrlich, or for any outbreak-movie-like-action-hero to valiantly save us from the invisible threat?
We all wish that they would exist, these magic bullets (simple solutions with extreme effectiveness). However, just as Bill Gates already abandoned this idea, we teach our Global Health students that they do not. Sadly, none of the solutions to health problems are in and of themselves magic or heroic. All medical interventions and technologies, whether drugs, vaccines, ventilators or diagnostics need daily human handwork (engaging relationships between healthcare workers, decision makers and patients) to function at all. If there is any magic at play, it is created through this human work and collaboration. This work shapes how these solutions are put to use and how effective they are in the end. Yet, this work is not prioritized or talked about when we search for magic bullets. Instead, the belief in magic bullets and their heroes leads to a single focus on targeted and vertical solutions to global health issues. Such vertical solutions are limited in scope and distributed unequally over populations defined by fuzzy and messy lines of affluence and access.
Importantly, the belief in magic bullets and its effect on innovation processes is directing funding and attention away from other things that highly matter, such as focusing on the structural and causal issues that helped the virus spillover and spread into the human population at the first place. We have been warned long in advance by epidemiologists and environmentalists that - due to our high global connectivity and the ways in which we are disrupting ecosystems and exploiting wildlife and other animals - it was not a question if a pandemic would strike, but when it would strike. This also means that one imagined magic bullet against COVID-19 will not prevent the next zoonotic virus to spill over into the human world.
We should address this crisis with urgent and immediate measures, yes. However, we should also emphasize the importance of not losing sight of addressing the more structural and systemic questions and issues that emerge if we look at the larger picture of this disease. Think for example of the need for the strengthening of health systems, of reducing inequalities that possibly exacerbate the effects of the virus in ways we do not yet understand, and of thoroughly questioning the way we are currently meddling recklessly with our planetary ecological health support system.
We should not just mention prevention and public health measures as if they were just a temporarily and frustrating sidekick of the hero with its bullet-gun. This would be following and promoting the strategy that averts attention from one of the most crucial questions raised by our present situation: what should we do to create a global society that will be less vulnerable for future pandemics to occur?
We need concerted efforts and interdisciplinary approaches, including the social sciences, to understand our current situation and to prepare ourselves for the future.
Carijn Beumer, Nora Engel, Alana Helberg-Proctor, Iris Fraikin, Ricky Janssen, Gonnie Klabbers, Anja Krumeich, Agnes Meershoek, Remco van de Pas, Avanti Wadugodapitiya: The Global Health Team at Health Ethics and Society of Maastricht University
Redactie - 01-Apr-2020 12:40
To what extent, the number of people infected by Corona-virus (COVID-19) in a country can determine the level of disaster resiliency in that country?
- Mojtaba Khanian
I want to know if coronaviruses are considered as fixed variable entered in every country, can level of resiliency of that country be determined by the number of infected and dead people? Furthermore, can this kind of assessment be reliable for other crises such as climate change and global warming-related disasters?
Did the World Health Organisation lie about Covid-19 being a pandemic?
- Nyasha Mboti
On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid19 a pandemic. International public health is their mandate, after all. The problem is that, after admitting that “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly”, the Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus went on to say that “We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.” These words are not only inexplicably careless and fraudulent, but constitute the clearest proof that on 11 March 2020 the WHO flouted its own wisdom and may have scammed the whole world into a pandemic. Since that date, the WHO seems to be leading the global fight against Covid-19 on false pretenses. Perhaps they were pushed into declaring a pandemic, or they do not know what they are doing. But the fact remains that on 11 March 2020 Covid-19 had NOT YET become a pandemic. Ghebreyesus even admits that “Of the 118,000 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90 percent of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – China and the Republic of Korea - have significantly declining epidemics. 81 countries have not reported any cases, and 57 countries have reported 10 cases or less”. SO WHY DECLARE A PANDEMIC?
There are lingering unanswered questions about the WHO’s “lack of transparency, the role of the experts who are being paid by the pharmaceutical industry”, and so on. Indeed, there are a number of recent concerning examples. For instance, in June 2019 the WHO ruled that, although the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was “a severe emergency,” it did not yet qualify as a global emergency. This was the second time the U.N. agency had decided that the Congo outbreak did not qualify to be a global emergency. Then there is the question of H1N1. “In the months leading up to the WHO’s declaration of the pandemic as a ‘level 6’ contagion – the highest possible level – many countries including Italy, Germany, France and the UK made secret agreements with pharmaceutical companies. These contracts obliged the countries to buy Swine Flu vaccinations only if the WHO raised the pandemic to a level 6.” The 2018 documentary TrustWHO by filmmaker Lillian Franck “unearthed footage that showed WHO delegates six weeks before the level 6 pandemic was issued as having described Swine Flu as a ‘moderate’ situation."
The main point concerning Covid-19 is that, by its own admission, WHO seems to have declared Covid19 a pandemic IN ORDER to avert a Covid19 pandemic. This seems illogical, and a scam. The end date of an event cannot come before the start date. You cannot be in a pandemic that has not YET started, and you can only avert a crisis that has NOT YET taken place. But you cannot have BOTH a pandemic (that is already taking place) AND efforts to avert a pandemic (that has not yet taken place). Certainly, there is a riddle posed by Ghebreyesus’ use of the phrase “at the same time”. I ask: how can an end date come BEFORE a start date? How is it possible that a manufacturing date can come AFTER an expiry date? The current global coronavirus crisis is proof that global agencies such as the WHO can, and do, actually cause irreparable harm. Perhaps their global roles need to be called into serious question. At a time when the blame game has started about who or what caused the current global health crisis, it seems that WHO caused the pandemic, and the blame for the Covid-19 pandemic lies squarely on the shoulders of the UN agency.
UPDATE: On 27 July 2020 WHO described Covid-19 as "a global health emergency" https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-who/who-says-covid-19-by-far-its-worst-global-health-emergency-idUSZ8N2DO000 Notice that this is a subtle shift in language, from pandemic to "health emergency". The definition of a "global health emergency" is ambiguous, and does not necessarily indicate a pandemic, although it could imply it. From seeming to be quite CERTAIN, they are now using deliberately ambiguous language. There is nothing in the notion of a "health emergency" that is NEW, and yet Covid-19 has been punted as NEW, thus justifying the unprecedented measures, such as the setting aside of democracy and human rights (because we are fighting an unprecedented enemy), destroyed livelihoods, mandatory face-mask wearing, physical distancing, lockdowns, closed economies, schools, social life etc.
Is the WHO, by this flip flopping and ambivalent language, trying to tell us something in a coded manner? Was their hand forced? Is there an internal struggle in the institution? Or is the WHO the one driving the scam?
Article: Increase SARS-CoV-2 infection after holidays
- Marcelo Fruehwirth
We evaluated the degree of increase in coronavirus infection after the holidays in Brazil, and we hope that the data can help prepare health teams to face the pandemic. Are there any surveys like that in your country? we can discuss this issue. Take care!
Can endemic turn into a pandemic again?
- Puti Sawa
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the spread of COVID-19 as a Global Pandemic. Currently, several places in the world are undergoing a process of transition from pandemic to endemic. However, if a pandemic has become endemic, can it turn into a pandemic again?
Which restrictive public health measures have been more effective to combat COVID-19?
- Hussen Mohammed
As well known, as the World Health Organization declared the Pandemic of COVID-19 on 11 March 2020, many restrictive public health interventions have been implemented on the globe. The steps and types of public health interventions have been vary , some countries introduced at early while others introduced later one after another. For instance, some countries have been banned the flights at early, bounders have been closed, schools have been closed, lock downs have been implemented. Some said the combinations of interventions at once are effective while the others said step by step is better. So that, which restrictive public health measures are more effective than others?
Discussion for the Correlation between SARS CoV-2 and the malarial parasites.
- Mrutyunjaya Panda
Kindly discuss your ideas and viewpoints on the probable correlation between the SARS CoV-2 and the malarial parasites.
It is generally observed that the cases of people affected with the COVID-19 is more prevalent in countries where there is very few cases of people suffering from Malaria and vice versa.
As an example we can cite many African countries and tribal areas of India, which have not been seriously hit by COVID-19. At the same place the European countries which had negligible cases of malaria, have turned into the global epicentre for this ongoing pandemic.
It draws a generic attention towards the epidemiological analysis when we considerably observe that even Hydroxychloroquinone and Chloroquinone is commonly prescribed nowadays as an alternative treatment for COVID-19 in many countries. Where these drugs are commonly prescribed for the treatment of malaria.
Even it is quite surprising to speculate - places in central Asia(Mangolia) where liver cancer cases are the maximum, we can observe a very less no. of COVID-19 cases.
So there must/might be any specific underlying mechanism that could be similar in both these pathogens - one a deadly virus and another a detrimental plasmodium!
The pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), was primarily focused on the involvement of the respiratory system, as the most common clinical manifestation of the disease. Currently, also long COVID poses a significant problem for medicine and public health worldwide. It...
With the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the international community is forced to face the global health crisis again. Even though, throughout the course of history, the human race has seldom succeeded in getting rid of infectious diseases and global health inequalities completely. Faced with this tragic situation and extre...
The spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has resulted in the most devastating global public health crisis in over a century. At present, over 7 million people from around the world have contracted the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), leading to more than 400,000 deaths globally. The global health crisis unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemi...