This study investigated mass media as a tool for sensitizing the public on Covid-19 variant “Omicron”. in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. The study adopted the survey method. The instrument for the survey was the questionnaire. Using the 2018 projection figure by the National Population Commission, the population of Akwa Ibom State is 5,828,265 (NPC 2018). A sample size of 500 was determined using Comrey and Lee 1992 guideline for sample size selection. The study anchored on Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) model. Findings show that, majority (98%) of respondents were aware of the Covid-19 variant “Omicron”, and that majority (75%) of respondents were satisfied with the level of media sensitization of the coronavirus pandemic information, though the level of compliance was very low. Mass media is a powerful tool to provide information to the general public and to promote positive environment during COVID pandemic, but it may also spread misleading information. Taking it as an advantage public can be motivated through social media to follow safe practices to contain the spread. To conclude, public awareness campaigns can be recognized as the most efficient and effective means of communication that can reach a broad segment of the general public to inform them about the Corona Virus Pandemic disease. The study recommended that media sensitization alone is not enough to guarantee compliance rather, government should explore the traditional channels of communication in order to create a kind of media mix that will permeate the rural communities.
1.1 Background of the study
Health related infections are the major problems of public health in many nations of the world, which ultimately cause an increase in the morbidity, mortality, and additional costs in health care settings (Al-Tawfiq et al., 2020).
In December 2019, there were emergence of some cases of the corona virus that originated in Wuhan City according to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2020). The causative pathogen was announced by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) on Jan 08, 2020, to be a novel coronavirus (Caulfield, 2020), lately named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Symptoms range from fever, flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and fatigue, and shortness of breath. There is evidence that it spreads from person to person, but good hygiene can prevent infection (Chavis & Ganesh, 2020; Chen et al, 2020; Deng and Peng, 2020).
As the reality of the coronavirus pandemic dawned on Nigeria, like the rest of the world had begun canceling events, flights, and virtually everything that required social, official, and religious gatherings (Adamu, 2020).
Ending the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic will require unprecedented collective action, on a global, national, and sub-national scale. In addition to social distancing and practicing other prosocial health behaviors (e.g., wearing masks in public places), hundreds of millions of Americans must choose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, once it becomes widely available (Kreps et al., 2020). By some estimates, up to 70 percent of Americans may need to develop antibodies to the disease, either through contracting (and recovering from) the disease and/or through inoculation — in order to put the virus’ spread into decline (Bartsch et al., 2020; Britton et al.,2020; Kwok et al., 2020).
Media is the mirror of society, as it reflects the society (Thigpen and Funk, 2020). These days massive effect of media is seen. Social media has become one of the best tacts to spread news nowadays, even if we are alerting people about something serious, in posthaste. As social media platform such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, twitter, etc gives a bundle of information each day, has led to increase in fake news and misinformation, which causes panic among people. People who read or see that misinformation interpret it as true fact (Milkman et al., 2021). In order to distinguish between facts and false narrative, we need to crosscheck the information that we get from social media with at least two different credible sources (Thigpen and Funk, 2020). We can break the chain of false narrative by doing a little research before forwarding it next. Apart from social media, Electronic media has also made a special effect on the public. Media is something that could create panic as well as provide relief from panic. As most of the part of India is in rural area so dependency on electronic media increases, because it is easily accessible (Sun et al., 2021). Even illiterate people of villages and town, could understand the presentation that is given on television screen. Nobody could ignore to repeated items of information and news by the speaker of television set. There is open discussion about what people hear or watch. Media around the nation reaches our heart and brain at the same time (Milkman et al., 2021). With news, documentaries and telefilms close to social issue increases awareness in youth and children also make them responsible towards society. During this crucial time, electronic media such as television and radio could bring a change in attitude and belief of people by sharing the positivity, as it is most impactful on elders as well as youth (Sun et al., 2021).
According to a survey there is 87% of increase in social media usage during lockdown. The daily global updates on coronavirus pandemic information is trending immensely, broadcast on radio stations, scrolled on television screens and the social media (Akarika, Kierian & Ikon 2020). Moreso, with the liberalization of the telecommunication sector in Nigeria, which result in over 139 million active mobile phone users and an installed capacity of over 180 million lines (Monye, 2015), the media dependency level of Nigerians during Covid-19 Pandemic increased tremendously (Akarika, Kierian & Ikon 2020).
Infelicitous irrational outcomes among people have been seen to expand remarkably course of knowledge and rampart providing information and messages prevail via mass media (Merkley, 2020). It follows administer the special recognition to a particular matter, the more coverage on the subject matter by media, sustain more recognition and perturb, especially when it comes to the health of people’s lives and have potentiality in mounting an agenda by formulating the issuance to take measures on that (Merkley, 2020). It is conscientiously realized that the mass media, principally its conventional elements (print, television, and radio) is in numerous ways that impoverished channel for the transmission of scientifically precise details about health and medicine, susceptible to aggrandizement, the transgression of exclusion, and absolute inaccuracy (Malik et al., 2020). Various studies also outlined unjustifiable rumors or staggering media coverage has the proficiency to construct misapprehension, misinformation concerning threat approximate in the minds of the extensive public with regards to the likelihood in a public health crisis (Malik et al., 2020).
In this modern day, the most common method of passing information is through mass media such television, radio, newspaper, social media, advertisements, news and so on. Messages concerning the Covid-19 variant “omicron” have been passed online through advertisements, and other mass media such as radio broadcast, television broadcast and newspaper feeds (Helmy et al., 2020).
The mass media have an immense duty to sensitize the citizens by way of information and education in issues of public Health. Media sensitization provides awareness to citizens on health communications. It is against this backdrop that this study examines the mass media as a tool for sensitizing the public on Covid-19 variant “omicron” in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the problem
The outbreak of corona virus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Nigeria has increased the level of tension and anxiety among citizens in the country. The virus unlike other cases we have had in this country is highly transmittable with severe signs and symptoms (Abdallah and Lee, 2021).
In the quest to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, government at all levels have outlined several measures to curb its spread. In spite of these measures put in place by various governments and relevant agencies in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the virus appears to be on the increase. According to NCDC, a total of 11,643 Nigerians had contracted the virus as at June, 17, 2020, with a total of 5,623 discharged and 459 death recorded (NCDC 2020).
The NCDC has embarked on several public communication campaigns using the mass media since the COVID-19 pandemic, to get the attention of all Nigerian at all levels to the key messages of the coronavirus pandemic (Akarika, Umoren & Iwok 2020). Howbeit, in spite of the coronavirus campaigns in Nigeria, there are still reports of failure of citizens to abide by instructions from WHO, NCDC, Ministry of Health and other health related agencies (Akarika, Umoren & Iwok 2020).
The availability of health information and enlightenment campaigns are obligations of the mass media. The rapid spread of diseases, most times, is as a result of lack of awareness of its early symptoms which can be treated at its early stage when detected (Akarika, 2019). In lieu of this alarming figure reported by NCDC, to what extent have the media sensitized the citizens of Akwa Ibom State and what is the level of awareness of coronavirus information in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria?
1.3 Objectives of the study
The main objective of the study is to assess mass media as a tool for sensitizing the public on Covid-19 variant “omicron”.
The specific objectives of the study are to:
- Find out the level of awareness of the Covid-19 variant “Omicron” among the citizens of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
- Identify media channels that provide the awareness on the Covid-19 variant “Omicron”.
- Determine citizens’ perception of media sensitization of the Covid-19 variant “Omicron”.
- Determine the level of compliance with the coronavirus pandemic information.
1.4 Research questions
- What is the level of awareness of the Covid-19 variant “Omicron” among the citizens of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria?
- What are the media channels that provide the awareness on the Covid-19 variant “Omicron”?
- What are the citizens’ perceptions of media sensitization of the Covid-19 variant “Omicron”?
- What is the level of compliance with the coronavirus pandemic information?
1.5 Significance of the study
The study is of immense benefit in regulating, the use of social Media and the Mode of new Age communication, in regularizing the use of social media and its effect on the Masses.
The study will enable relevant agencies concerned with eradicating coronavirus in Akwa-state and Nigeria in general to appraise the media framework for possible modification or modernization. The study will show the how media have covered the outbreak of the novel virus. The study exposes the rural people’s perception of the use of media as an institution concerned with people’s welfare and from there highlight the potency of the media as instrument of mass education and mobilization for public policy implication in the state.
Theoretically, this study stands to provide additional knowledge to the body of existing literature on the spread this pandemic disease to the world and of particular reference to Nigeria. The result of this study will serve as good base or guide for future reference and it will also encourage further research on the importance of staying healthy. Furthermore, this study will provide relevant information on the reasons for the spread of this disease from China to the rest of the world.
This study will also be of benefit to researchers, academics and scholars in carrying out research and academic works related to this study.
1.6 Scope of the study
This study was carried out on the assessment of mass media as a tool for sensitizing the public on Covid-19 variant “Omicron”. The scope of the study was restricted to dwellers in Akwa Ibom state.
1.7 Limitation of the study
Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information.
Time constraint– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 Definition of terms
Corona virus disease (COVID-19): Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus. The disease causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing.
Mass media: Mass media is communication—whether written, broadcast, or spoken—that reaches a large audience. This includes television, radio, advertising, movies, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, and so forth.
Media: Media are the communication outlets or tools used to store and deliver information or data.
Omicron variant: The Omicron variant is a variant of SARS-CoV-2 that was first reported to the World Health Organization from South Africa on 24 November 2021.
Variant: This is a form or version of something that differs in some respect from other forms of the same thing or from a standard.
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