“Covid can affect anyone. Stay home. Be tested. Book your vaccine,” reads a screen message in the 30-second ad, apparently intended to illustrate the dangers it poses to young people from the highly contagious Delta variant.
The ad, which began airing Sunday night in Sydney, “is quite graphic and is intended to be graphic,” Australian Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told a news conference Sunday. “We are only doing this because of the situation (Covid-19).”
While Australia has performed better than many other developed nations in keeping infections relatively low, Sydney has seen case numbers rise in recent weeks as the Delta variant takes power. In response to the blast, restrictions have been tightened in Australia’s largest city, with strict rules in place restricting outdoor gatherings, exercise and shopping.
New South Wales, whose capital is Sydney, announced on Monday 112 new cases aired in the country, almost all in Sydney, despite tight blocking measures.
The new government ad is part of a wider Covid-19 health campaign highlighting the seriousness of the recent blast, however, many Australians have expressed concern about its use of “insensitive” tactics of intimidation, and what many people perceive it as contradictory confusing messages.
Bill Bowtell, an assistant professor at the University of New South Wales and strategic health policy adviser, said the ad was “misunderstood in every way possible”.
The young woman who is shown struggling to breathe is particularly troubling, according to Bowtell. Under the current range of vaccines in Australia, most people under the age of 40 are unable to get the recommended Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, he said.
“Every piece of health communication needs to be tasteful, it needs to have integrity and honesty. It fails in that regard,” Bowtell added.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that people under the age of 40 could ask their GP for an AstraZeneca stroke even if they were not yet legal to get a vaccine, changing a policy that was previously gave priority to high-risk groups such as health care workers and the elderly.
Addressing the backlash against the government’s new health response Monday, Morrison said there would be “always” criticism. “I know that, and it was only a few weeks ago that our own critics were saying that advertising needed to be stronger, much stronger, even referring to gloomy harvesters,” he told CNN affiliate Sky News Australia.
“[The ad] there are two messages … one is to stay home, “Morrison added. We can not be complacent about this. “And the young people moving around the city are putting people at risk throughout the community, including themselves.”
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