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'We’re just short of calling for lynchings at airports': TD calls for perspective in Covid-19 coverage

Meanwhile, Minister Simon Coveney said yesterday there were only 16 people on a flight from Dallas about which concerns had been raised.

INDEPENDENT TD MICHAEL McNamara has questioned whether there is a need for greater perspective in the coverage of Covid-19 in the Irish media.

Speaking during a sitting of the Special Dáil Covid-19 Committee today, which is focusing on mental health issues during the pandemic, McNamara said: 

“Some reporting in the media gives the impression that the only thing of which one might die is Covid-19. Some sectors are just short of calling for lynchings at airports of people who come to Ireland. Do we need more perspective? Is a lack of perspective contributing to distress and mental health problems?”

Mental Health Ireland CEO Martin Rogan said in recent months many people have been glued to their television sets and consuming a large amount of media content, sometimes from responsible sources and other times from less responsible sources.

While he said the majority of the Irish media have been very responsible and been an important tool in communicating updates in terms of the various phases of reopening, he said we “need to be mindful that some people may spend their whole day on social media or a screen of some description, which can give a very distorted world view”.

McNamara asked if the mental health experts were concerned that the way Covid-19 is being reported on in the media is somehow contributing to mental health difficulties.

“There have been more than 1,700 deaths from Covid-19. Eight of those who have died were under the age of 65 and did not have an underlying condition. Of course, each of the 1,700 deaths is a tragedy. That said, it is possible that we have lost a sense of perspective,” he said, citing numbers of cancer-related deaths for the same period.  

He also said he was concerned about the lack of cancer screening taking place, something that has been consistently raised in the Dáil since the beginning of the crisis.

“Typically, there are 3,100 diagnoses of breast cancer in any given year, 2,680 diagnoses of bowel cancer, 1,161 diagnoses of gynaecological cancer and 3,300 diagnoses of prostate cancer. The screening programmes for those conditions are currently in abeyance. Some reporting in the media gives the impression that the only thing of which one might die is Covid-19,” he said.

Royanne McGregor, a member of the Youth Advisory Panel for Jigsaw said from the perspective of a young person, much of the media reportage on Covid has been through traditional platforms such as newspapers, RTÉ and radio or television news programmes.

“That is not where young people are at. They are more active on social media and on their phones. We recently held a discussion in collaboration with young people and run by Jigsaw and the HSE. Many of the young people involved stated that information on Covid was not accessible to them.

“They were of the opinion that information was not being provided in understandable language or on a platform that they can access. That may be a source of much anxiety,” she said.

McGregor said young people may not have certainty with regard to guidelines or be up to date with the stages and phases due to this factor.

“They are seeking more accessible, youth-focused and youth-targeted resources and information such that they can be informed,” she said.

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Earlier today, Professor Sam McConkey, an infectious diseases specialist at the Royal College of Surgeons, told Newstalk that any visitor from overseas who doesn’t quarantine themselves for two weeks as required should be jailed.

His comments come after some concerns were highlighted about flights arriving in Ireland from some US cities. 

Today, a number of government sources have said such calls are not helpful from health professionals, who they said should be offering medical advice.

Concerns about an over-reaction to issues relating to flights from America have been echoed in some government corners, which pointed to Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney’s comments yesterday.

Coveney has said he does not think international flights should be banned from landing in Ireland. The government has ruled out mandatory quarantine due to legal issues surrounding the detention of a person for two weeks, as well as resource issues in terms of policing and accommodating the thousands of people that arrive in Ireland each day.

“We have between 200-250 people a day arriving from the US that’s in the context of about 4,500 people a day arriving into Ireland. The majority of those people are Irish people coming home,” said Coveney.

“One of the flights from Dallas which has been the subject of some attention from the media and social media – there were only 16 people on that flight is my understanding,” he told reporters yesterday. 

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