Covid-19, or the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, is sweeping the globe. To date, more than 5,000 people have died, and over 135,000 infections have been reported. The outbreak began in Wuhan, Hubei, and has since spread around the world. While Covid-19 is a serious illness (it’s essentially treatment resistant, and attacks the respiratory system), its mortality rate is currently hovering around 2% to 3% – higher than the flu but substantially lower than SARS or Ebola. So, why does the media care so much about the coronavirus? With widespread reporting, it’s essentially become a media frenzy.
Reporting Covid-19 vs Ebola
Ebola, with a mortality rate of around 50%, is arguably a much more serious illness than Covid-19. While there was reporting on the Ebola outbreak that occurred primarily in countries like Sierra Leone in Africa, the focus was more on whether or not it would spread to Western countries like the UK or the USA. While there were a few cases in the rest of the world, it was predominantly contained within the African continent.
Still, a virus that kills 50% of the people that it infects deserves substantial media coverage, right? Unfortunately that’s not really what happened.
(Elijah Wolfson for TIME)
When we look at the above chart, we can clearly see the difference in reporting on each outbreak within the first month. The number of times “Coronavirus” appeared in a headline spiked about 3,000 within the first 30 days. Comparatively “Ebola” was mentioned less than 200 times.
Malaria vs Coronavirus
Internationally, malaria accounts for the deaths of approximately 1 to 3 million people per year. The overwhelming majority of these deaths are of children under the age of 6, and 80 – 90% of fatalities are in rural sub-Saharan Africa.
Comparatively, the coronavirus has killed just over 5,000 since December 2019, a vastly lower mortality rate. Still, the majority of deaths from malaria take place in Africa, and that’s not exactly considered of great importance to Western media. Reporting on malaria is almost non-existent.
World hunger is also far more deadly than Covid-19, but you don’t really hear much of it outside of the odd guilt-tripping UNICEF advertisement on YouTube. Around 9 million people die of starvation each year, more than the mortality rates of AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
Around 795 million people do not have access to enough food, so around one in nine people globally. The majority live in developing countries, where 12.9% of the population is undernourished.
Again, this is happening predominantly in Western countries. While global starvation should be considered a crisis of massive proportions, it isn’t given very much attention at all. It’s one of the leading causes of death around the world – yet the media pays it little attention.
Why the difference in reporting?
Frankly, I think we all know why. The West is terrified. The fact of the matter is that Western countries can’t remove themselves from the outbreak. While it started in China, it has quickly spread throughout the globe. In fact, it has the least number of infections in Africa.
Ebola was an “African” problem. With the legacy of colonization still hanging in the air, Africa is developing and therefore less equipped to handle outbreaks on the scale of Ebola than developed countries – but that’s not the issue. Western media is reporting so heavily on Covid-19 because they’re genuinely terrified.
Of course, as with anything, racism comes into it too. The fact is that Western media didn’t want to believe that predominantly white countries could experience something like this. Their healthcare systems are too “advanced”. The coronavirus is a massive wake up call – illness does not discriminate according to race or socio-economic status.
So, why does the media care so much about the Coronavirus? It’s because it’s become a Western problem – and that’s really all that matters to them.
Coronavirus on the rise
Covid-19 isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. With more than 135,000 cases around the world, the majority in China, the media frenzy is just beginning. So, why does the media care so much about the Coronavirus? Because it’s a problem that actually affects them in a tangible way. With a mortality rate of around 3%, it’s a dangerous virus, but still doesn’t hold up against illnesses like Ebola or SARS. With racist reporting on the rise, this virus holds a very real threat outside of the actual illness.