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Boris Johnson ‘failed to promote handwashing’ at start of pandemic

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Boris Johnson failed to promote handwashing on Twitter and the head of the World Health Organization behaved “more like an Instagram influencer” by tweeting celebrity quotes at the onset of COVID-19 according to a new university study.

Researchers from the Caledonian University of Glasgow and two Spanish universities analyzed the use of Twitter by political leaders in the most affected European countries during the first 40 days of the pandemic.

The study focused on images and videos published by Johnson and WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom, as well as Emmanuel Macron, from France, Pedro Sánchez, from Spain, Giuseppe Conte, from Italy, and Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. .

Information relating to World Health Organization recommendations made up 1.9% of Boris Johnson’s tweets, compared with 53.1% from Conte, 33.7% from Macron and 22.4% from Sanchez.

Johnson’s figures for social distancing, 13.7%, and confinement, 37.2%, were higher than other prime ministers, but the four leaders rarely emphasized handwashing – Macron, 1.1%, Johnson, 6.8%, Sanchez, 4.8% and Conte, 9.3%.

WHO Director-General Adhanom has been criticized for his lack of transparency as he deleted tweets posted before early April.

The study states: “Some weeks Tedros Adhanom posts over 300 tweets and some of them are more reminiscent of an Instagram influencer – citing celebrities and introducing concepts like ‘Love’ and ‘Peace’, without providing any context – than a director for a world medical organization facing the worst health crisis in decades.

“The WHO leader lacks transparency as all tweets before April 7 from Tedros Adhanom’s profile were deleted and he spent most of his posts arguing with other leaders and justifying previous decisions. ”

The document, titled European leaders unmasked: COVID-19 communication strategy via Twitter, and published in the Spanish journal El Profesional de la Información, underlines that public communication is essential to “slow the spread of the virus and reduce the death rate “.

He concludes that there was a disconnect in the Twitter sphere of the leaders “because they did not use the medium to reinforce public health messages by supporting personal actions or values ​​in the photos and videos they posted .

“They did not take advantage of their influential position to show themselves wearing masks, observing social distancing, or following stringent measures such as regular hand washing,” the study said.

Dr Lindsey Drylie Carey, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Glasgow Caledonian University, and one of the authors added: “The higher the authentic authority of the leader in times of crisis, the easier it is to impose actions. and necessary sanctions.

“It appears that the executives we investigated in this research were unable to present an adequate level of genuine authority in their communication strategy on Twitter.

“All of the executives used the platform primarily as an information service with very little interest in entering into a two-way dialogue with users.”



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