Global Health Crisis: COVID-19

 Photo by: Elena Mozhvilo (Unsplash)


Why ‘freedom day’ is the latest example of COVID propaganda

The lifting of most COVID legal restrictions on July 19 has been dubbed “freedom day” by some politicians and journalists. Though not an official designation, this popularisation of this moment with such a saying closely follows two of my ten “golden rules” of propaganda that I’ve developed in my years studying the practice. First, appeal to the instincts rather than the reason of the audience, and second, build around a slogan. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.

To this end, the media’s regular use of the phrase reflects its compliance with – and encouragement of – the government’s pandemic communications strategy. It is one of these phrases that you cannot quite place where it first emerged but which quickly seeps into public discussion to the point that we all know what it means.

Throughout the pandemic, the British government has used a wartime propaganda playbook to deliver public communications about COVID and the purported solutions to it. In these terms, we are now heading for the end of the “combat” phase of the government’s propaganda delivery and the beginning of the post-pandemic – or post-war – phase.

In this sense, “freedom day” could be compared to VE Day (Victory in Europe Day, May 8 1945) and ought to be regarded as the latest in a long line of rhetorical associations with the second world war that have been encouraged over the last 16 months.

References to blitz spirit, the militarisation of language around and heroisation of the NHS and the attention on second world war veteran Tom Moore as the flagship of British determination and sacrifice are just a few of the ways this history has manifested in COVID Britain.

Concepts like “freedom” and “liberty” have been invoked by propagandists since the 16th-century Protestant Reformation and subsequent Enlightenment period. They emerged as influential writers – Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill and Isaiah Berlin, to name a few – began to philosophise about the rights of the individual.

To this end, the popular use of “freedom” to describe the end of pandemic restrictions forms part of a populist audience seduction strategy, using emotional rather than rational rhetoric. The media’s purpose in using the phrase then is to appear to be on the side of the public. As Harold Lasswell, one of the founding fathers of communications studies, wrote in 1927: the best propaganda is that which is the “champion of our dreams”.

The philosopher Patrick Nowell-Smith discussed the seductiveness of the propaganda of “freedom” in his 1954 work Ethics, noting its association with hedonism and its “deliciousness” within the human mind. He caveats that hedonism is not always about “gluttony and self-centredness” and is not always “carnal”.

From the propagandist’s point of view though, “freedom” is an effective rhetorical tool because it means whatever the target audience wants it to mean. Its utility is that the term is vague but that it resonates with ease when uttered.


Understanding propaganda

One of the most common misconceptions around propaganda is that it always involves the communication of falsehoods to a mass audience and attempts to “brainwash” – evoking shades of North Korea or the Nazis. In the common mind, propaganda is synonymous with the use of dark arts to encourage a target audience to engage in behaviours or to think in ways that they would otherwise not. Undoubtedly, some propaganda does do this.

Propaganda is more complex than this and can also involve truth-telling, however selective or self-interested.

Today, propaganda is all around us. It is undertaken by governments, state institutions, corporations trying to sell us things, media organisations, charities and powerful individuals in advance of their own interests – just look at any billionaire philanthropist “doing good” while paying next to zero tax.

Individual citizens have obtained the means to broadcast for ourselves, particularly via social media platforms, and we too have become propagandists. “Influencer” is just a more acceptable way of saying “propagandist.”

“Freedom day” is not a lie, because restrictions will be lifted. However, the popularisation of it as such (rather than “most restrictions lifted day,” for example), is part of a strategy (endorsed by government and mainstream media alike) that has wanted the British public to think, act, associate and feel in certain ways since the pandemic began.

Indeed, the best, or most effective, propaganda is that which creates emotional bonds between the target audience and certain people, products, events or concepts. “Freedom day” has been so-called because the powerful want us to think in certain ways about this day, and to exclude or overlook other aspects of the pandemic that it deems undesirable.

To overwhelm the public’s conscience (or to subtly railroad it while making it seem like choices are available) is one of the highest art forms in propaganda. We see this perhaps most clearly within public discussion of the vaccine programme wherein government and media have sought to marginalise more critical views of it.

Calling it “freedom day” attempts to nullify the public by encouraging us not to scrutinise government and media performance as we should. It reflects an attempt to move the discussion from science, sociology and public health to patriotism and emancipation.


By                 :               Colin Alexander (Lecturer in Political Communications, Nottingham Trent University)

Date             :                July 18, 2021

Source         :                The Conversation


The pandemic has changed consumer behaviour forever – and online shopping looks set to stay

More and more consumers are ordering goods online.

  • Consumer shift to digital channels will remain after the pandemic -PwC report.
  • Customer loyalty has plummeted, with buyers switching brands at unprecedented rates.
  • The use of smartphones for online shopping has more than doubled since 2018.

Billions of people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are driving a “historic and dramatic shift in consumer behaviour” – according to the latest research from PwC.

The consulting and accounting firm’s June 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey reports a strong shift to online shopping as people were first confined by lockdowns, and then many continued to work from home. Other trends in this shift towards digital consumption include online shoppers being keen to find the best price, choosing more healthy options and being more eco-friendly by shopping locally where possible.

Another significant finding from the report is that consumers do not think they’ll go back to their old ways of shopping once the pandemic is over.


A consumer pivot to digital and devices

More than 8,600 people across 22 territories took part in PwC’s survey. They were asked how often, in the past 12 months, they had bought clothes, books and electronics using a range of shopping channels.

The chart below illustrates their answers, and shows a shift to digital and a growing trend for shopping using connected devices such as smartphones, tablets and smart voice assistants such as Amazon Echo, Google Home and Samsung SmartThings.

More than 50% of the global consumers responding to the June 2021 survey said they had used digital devices more frequently than they had six months earlier, when they had taken part in a prior PwC survey. The report also finds the use of smartphones for shopping has more than doubled since 2018.DIGITAL, COVID-19, EDISON ALLIANCE


Medicines and groceries on demand

A survey of US consumers by McKinsey & Company gives a more detailed breakdown of the shift to digital shopping channels and the kinds of purchases consumers are making.

The survey found a 15-30% overall growth in consumers who made purchases online across a broad range of product categories. Many of the categories see a double-digit percentage growth in online shopping intent, led by over-the-counter medicines, groceries, household supplies and personal care products.

And McKinsey noted that “consumer intent to shop online [post-pandemic] continues to increase, especially in essentials and home-entertainment categories”.


A decline in brand loyalty

With consumers shopping from their sofas and home offices, another trend flagged up by McKinsey is a marked decline in brand loyalty.

In total, 75% of US consumers have tried a new shopping behaviour and over a third of them (36%) have tried a new product brand. In part, this trend has been driven by popular items being out of stock as supply chains became strained at the height of the pandemic. However, 73% of consumers who had tried a different brand said they would continue to seek out new brands in the future.CORONAVIRUS, HEALTH, COVID19, PANDEMIC


Healthy, hygienic and sustainable

The trend towards online shopping has also seen consumers focus on staying healthy during long periods in lockdown. McKinsey notes a desire to reduce touchpoints to ensure greater hygiene with the shopping experience.

One enterprise in the US has tapped into these trends to provide a service for shopping online at a range of farm shops local to the buyer. To qualify for the FarmMatch scheme, farmers must grow their food using sustainable methods.

As the world navigates its way out of the pandemic, the way we all act as consumers has been changed fundamentally by COVID-19. The research points to this change becoming permanent, leaving retailers and manufacturers with the challenge of attracting and retaining consumers in an ‘omnichannel’ world, where customer loyalty is hard-won.


By             :                 Simon Torkington (Senior Writer, Formative Content)

Date         :                   July 7, 2021

Source     :                   QRIUS


Conflict and COVID-19 in Yemen: beyond the humanitarian crisis



Yemen has been left in shambles and almost destroyed by its devastating civil war, and is now having to deal with the spread of coronavirus. The Yemeni people have been are left to fend for themselves and faced many problems such as hunger, the ongoing war, infections, diseases and lack of equipment even before the COVID-19 pandemic. All together it is a humanitarian crisis. Only around 50% of the hospitals and healthcare facilities are in full working condition, and even those that are functioning are operating at nowhere near full potential. Healthcare staff and facilities lack necessary essential equipment and money.


As, sadly, is common in conflict-affected regions, the violence has brought with it a secondary disaster of infectious disease outbreaks. Yemen is not only battling COVID-19 amid a catastrophic war, but also has to deal with other diseases such as cholera, diphtheria and measles. A number of key measures are needed to support the current efforts against this deadly epidemic and its potential subsequent waves as well as to prevent further epidemics in Yemen.


Alsabri, M., Alhadheri, A., Alsakkaf, L.M. et al. Conflict and COVID-19 in Yemen: beyond the humanitarian crisis. Global Health 17, 83 (2021).


Published           :         July 22, 2021

Source                :        Globalization and Health