Coronavirus In NZ: The Good The Bad And The Ugly:

March 5, 2020
Irresponsible headlines induce panic in Auckland stores

Some are risking their lives for the good while others are just looking to make a buck. PAT PILCHER takes aim at those who have put profit before the public good.


Irresponsible headlines induce panic in Auckland stores

Unless you’ve been living in a cave over the last few months, the odds are good that you’ve heard of the Coronavirus, known to scientists as NCOV2019 or COVID2019. Originating in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China, the virus has killed (at the time of writing) 3100 people. It has spread across the world with over 40 countries reporting cases, including New Zealand, which has just confirmed its second case.

The Coronavirus has highlighted not only what is intrinsically good about people, but sadly, has also brought out the worst.

“Doctors have selflessly run towards the danger despite knowing full well the potentially fatal risks involved”

While most seek to avoid any contact with the virus, many doctors have selflessly run towards the danger, despite knowing full well the potentially fatal risks involved. This is exemplified in China where Peng Yinhua, a doctor who worked in respiratory and critical care at the First People Hospital, decided to delay his wedding to treat those infected with Coronavirus. Tragically, he caught the virus and was admitted to the hospital, where his condition worsened and he subsequently died. Peng wasn’t alone.

Price gouging goes unchecked in NZ

Liu Zhiming, a senior doctor in Wuhan, also died after succumbing to Coronavirus. He was part of a humanitarian team that sought out those infected in Wuhan who had no way to reach a hospital and no one to help them. Over 1000 doctors are said to be infected with Coronavirus.

“It was a train station in Iran, not Auckland”

If that is what is good, then what about the not so good? Sadly, examples of this are easily found in New Zealand. When the first Kiwi case of Coronavirus surfaced, the New Zealand Herald responded in what can only be described as a despicably irresponsible way. The weekend edition of the paper featured a full front-page spread with a red headline screaming, ‘First NZ Coronavirus case’, followed by a larger blue headline bellowing ‘PANDEMONIUM’. This was followed by a photograph showing a person in a hazmat suit disinfecting a train platform that was meant to look like Britomart. It turns out that even the picture was dodgy. It was a train station in Iran, not Auckland.

Price gouging goes unchecked in NZ

Predictably, panic and chaos followed as hordes of freaked out and unquestioning Herald readers descended on Auckland supermarkets and panic-bought everything in sight. Stocks of bottled water vanished, toilet paper and food were swept off supermarket shelves.

How toilet paper was going to help anyone infected is a mystery, and last time anyone looked, tap water in New Zealand was safe to drink.

“How toilet paper was going to help anyone infected is a mystery”

The sad thing about this was that the one single person who had tested positive for Coronavirus at that point in time had been wearing a mask since arriving in New Zealand from Iran. He had self-isolated and done everything he could to reduce the risk of infecting anyone else. There was no need for sensationalised panic-inducing reporting.

We need to get the Coronavirus in perspective

It seems that selling advertising mattered more than the chaos could come out of such sensationalist headlines. To be perfectly clear here, New Zealand needs panic-inducing headlines right now like a dose of the clap. What would have been more useful was factual reporting containing helpful information such as how to avoid getting infected and what to do if you came down with Coronavirus.

“New Zealand needs panic-inducing headlines right now like a dose of the clap”

It isn’t just the New Zealand Herald acting like a dog on a putting green though. TradeMe, New Zealand’s biggest online selling portal has seen outrageous prices being charged for hand sanitiser and soap. They are refusing to intervene, despite Reuters ( reporting that Amazon has moved to pull tens of thousands of products and deals from its online store because of price gouging and other shady attempts to make a buck out of the Coronavirus scare. TradeMe’s response is disappointing. They’re responding to complaints with what appears to be a cut and paste reply that says, “Hi [complainant name], thanks for getting in touch. We never regulate the prices of items on our site. At the end of the day, these are trades between a willing buyer and a willing seller and the prices are simply market forces at work.”

Everyone in NZ needs to do the right thing

While Coronavirus might not be the black plague, it is killing people. Now is the time for everyone to come together and do the right thing. We need to look after each other. Seizing the Coronavirus crisis and using it to make a buck simply isn’t good enough.


Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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