Don’t blame the media for inaccurate message
QUEENSLAND once again finds itself with crossed fingers.
Through equal doses of good luck and good management it appears a potential COVID outbreak may have been averted - as well as the economically damaging lockdown that would have come with it.
Of course, bad news this morning could change all that - Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young was at pains yesterday to say that a lockdown was still possible.
Queensland Health swung into action on Friday after a new positive case was detected in the community, and subsequent testing revealed two new cases, both close contacts of the initial case.
One of those subsequent cases no longer has the virus, and may be the link between the Princess Alexandra Hospital doctor and this cluster.
And as has been proven time and again, ordinary Queenslanders have done their bit, flooding the testing centres and wearing masks if necessary.
More than anything, it is this buy-in that is averting the need for a lockdown.
Information on the locations visited by the positive cases has been quick and concise, allowing people to make a quick assessment about their own risk and act accordingly.
QH deserves praise for this. And the blunder that was made when they announced to the media on Saturday that 25 people had attended "a party" at the house of a man who was awaiting test results did not need to hurt their key messaging.
But the way Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski corrected the record yesterday was outrageous.
Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski would have been justifiably annoyed that it fell to him to correct information released to the media by QH, but he should have done better.
"I'm trying to set the record right and say please stop reporting there was a party of 25 going on, because that's not the case," he said.
"The reporting that we've seen around the matter of the young man testing positive, and the reporting there was a party at his place - now we know that's not the case.
"While there were some initial concerns around a party being held at his place with 25 people … the contact tracing following that has revealed there were only five people.
"Calling it a party is really inflammatory in some ways and it's not quite right … Do you say that you have five of your housemates there and you're having a party? I don't think so."
Well Deputy Commissioner, that was the first we had heard of it.
The media's reporting was based on information given by QH on Saturday, in a press release that listed possible exposure sites.
"More locations may be added after it was revealed the Strathpine man hosted a gathering of around 25 people at his home between being instructed to isolate and getting his positive test results," the press release said.
"The attendees at the party have been placed in quarantine while the risk is assessed."
Twenty-five people. A party. Not inflammatory, not sensationalist. Just fair and honest reporting based on the information we had been given, quickly shared with the public to give them all of the available facts to help keep them safe.
The man at the centre of it all, Lachlan Simpson, last night explained how he thought the mistake occurred. He said he had held a party two weeks before he was tested - before he was feeling ill and, most probably, before he had COVID. Somehow, the date of the party had been confused and the message was muddled.
It instantly cleared up the confusion about how a group of six people in a house could be confused with a house party of 25. QH should have explained the situation and cleared up the confusion at their morning press conference.
Public confidence in the message from health authorities has been key in Queensland's success in fighting the pandemic. That confidence took a blow yesterday, when the media was blamed for a mistake made by QH.
It's time all in government supported the critical role the media plays in this.
Responsibility for election comment is taken by Chris Jones, corner of Mayne Rd & Campbell St, Bowen Hills, Qld 4006. Printed and published by NEWSQUEENSLAND (ACN 009 661 778). Contact details are available here
Originally published as Editor's view: Don't blame the media for inaccurate message