On April 4, the social media network Odnoklassniki (OK.ru) hosted a special livestream of the series “Po Pravde Govorya” (Telling the Truth – an educational talk show by UNAIDS and UNESCO IITE), dedicated to COVID-19.
The project hostess Lika Dlugach discussed with experts a number of issues that the novel coronavirus may raise over the coming weeks and months: How can I effectively protect myself against COVID-19? Is self-isolation effective to prevent the further spread of the virus? How do I motivate myself to work and study from home? And how can we talk to children and older people about a problem that, as a matter of fact, has put the whole world under lockdown?
The broadcast received more than 2.3 million views and some 5,500 user reactions from users.
Cooperation, partnership and solidarity will contribute to the end of the pandemic
Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, was the first to address the audience. He described the state of the epidemic in the European region and outlined the principles underlying an effective response to the coronavirus. These include continuing international cooperation, partnership and solidarity, which will allow delivering necessary supplies to fight the pandemic to the countries and regions most in need, as well as providing assistance to the elderly. Dr. Kluge stressed that the most important challenge many countries are facing is to leave none of the affected behind.
What is special about COVID-19?
Mr Vinay Saldanha, UNAIDS special adviser, noted the extremely rapid spread of the coronavirus and spoke about the joint efforts of all UN organizations in fighting the pandemic.
He also stressed the importance of informed (though possibly tough) decision to introduce a quarantine regime:
“The world has not seen such a fast-evolving epidemic that would affect the whole globe, all countries, all territories for more than a hundred years. The virus is actually spreading very quickly, [ … ] and now it is drastically important to stay at home in quarantine”
Why do we need quarantine and self-isolation, and when are they most effective?
Mr Alexander Goliusov, Director of the UNAIDS Regional office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA), has agreed with Vinay Saldanha. He once again stressed that the epidemic can be stopped in the shortest time in case of total self-isolation and quarantine. This condition is critical to interrupt the virus transmission chain from one person to another would be interrupted. Alexander Goliusov also added:
“There are two possible ways of responding to the epidemic: either a strict quarantine and subsequent exclusion of anyone else from this exact territory, or a ‘soft’ quarantine, which will slow down the spread of the infection and will let the health care system manage the response, minimize the number of deaths among the infected, but this will take a longer period of time”.
Facts and fakes about the virus – a word from an infectious disease specialist
Ms Elena Orlova-Morozova, infectious disease specialist, MD-PhD, answered the most frequently asked questions about health and COVID-19 in detail. Viewers were particularly interested in the symptoms of the disease, as well as its difference from other respiratory infections.
Elena Orlova-Morozova paid special attention to common misconceptions about a new type of coronavirus and its treatment. Notably, she explained why we should not take non-prescribed antibiotics as a means of prevention and self-medicate, especially with some traditional remedies. She also explained why there is no universal testing for COVID-19 among the population.
Learning under the new circumstances
Mr Tigran Yepoyan, UNESCO Regional Adviser on Health and Education, spoke about how UNESCO is helping countries at the time of school closure. He presented the new platform developed by UNESCO IITE, which provides easy access to multiple resources for distance learning as well as to a series of information cards prepared by UNAIDS Regional office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia and UNESCO IITE. The cards provide parents and children with practical advice on how to get through this difficult time without ruining relationships with each other, continue studying at home, stay strong amid panic and avoid depression.
“It is very important to engage in a truthful and open conversation with children about the situation, stand on equal grounds, limit the amount of exposure to news, concentrate on positive side, and avoid blaming the infected for everything,” – Tigran Yepoyan summed up.
#Stay Safe. Online counselling for teenagers
Ms Yana Panfilova, the Founder of Teenergizer, movement that has united teenagers from the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, shared her experience of online peer-to-peer counselling #Stay Safe for teenagers conducted by the Teenergizer youth team. They aim to help adolescents understand the seriousness of self-isolation, follow preventive measures and adapt to living and studying under unusual conditions.
“Our lifehacks help teens create new algorithms in everyday life, do what they need to do to maintain their mental health. … After quarantine, a post-traumatic syndrome may occur. Therefore, it is vital to speak out. [ … ] It is also important not to keep on being tough and strong, [ … ] but to show your emotions, accept yourself” – Yana Panfilova said.
Quarantine. Reformed/ Changed plans and new opportunities
Star guests – singer, actress, TV host, UNAIDS Goodwill ambassador Vera Brezhneva and singer Stas Piekha joined the live broadcast of “Po Pravde Govorya” to share their own experiences of coping with challenges of self-isolation.
“The very first thing is not to panic. The second is to be responsible for your own health, the health of your loved ones and, of course, to protect our older generation. Washing hands thoroughly is a must. And certainly [ … ] it is important to be active during the day. To accomplish this one must have a daily routine.” Vera Brezhneva shared her own lifehacks on how not to give in to gloominess during quarantine.
In his address Stas Piekha told the viewers about how he communicates online on a daily basis with many people who are currently in treatment at drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres. Famous singer supports and motivates them, shares his own experience of recovery, provides counselling sessions.
“For me volunteering is the key now as it is an opportunity to do something good, make myself somehow useful.” Stas Piekha notes.
OK.ru social media network users answered the questions on COVID-19: survey results
A few days before the livestream a survey was launched to determine the awareness level of Odnoklassniki social media network users about the novel coronavirus infection, their attitude to information circulating in mass media as well as to measures taken to contain the epidemic and its consequences. More than three thousand people participated in the survey. A snapshot of the survey findings is available below.
- COVID-19 survey results
Information about COVID-19
According to the obtained data, the vast majority of respondents get information about the coronavirus:
- from the Internet and social networks (43.5%),
- television and radio (38.5%)
and consider it trustworthy (31.4% and 33.1% respectively). At the same time, 23.1% said they trust the information from medical specialists.
Information from the Internet and mass media is seen as objective by 38.7% of respondents, but 23.2% find it not objective, but rather exaggerating the situation, and 18% believe that it minimizes the danger. 79.3% of respondents find this information understandable and useful, and 70.8% consider it sufficient to protect themselves and their loved ones from the coronavirus.
New virus: who is affected, who is threatened, and who will suffer
The participants’ replies to the questions about the coronavirus threats and consequences distributed as follows:
- 35% said that the virus threatens them personally,
- 31.5% were uncertain and
- 33.3% said that the virus does not imperil them.
At the same time, 51% of participants noted that the virus did not touch their loved ones, and 42.4% – did not affect them personally. A third of respondents (29%) said that everyone will suffer from the epidemic, 21.6% believed that the elderly will be in the greatest distress and 18.9% named health care system workers as the most affected people in the epidemic.
The epidemic and the response. What will stop it?
Regarding the effectiveness of measures taken on the grounds by the local authorities the opinions of the respondents varied:
- 36.9% considered that these measures are sufficient to contain the epidemic
- 35.4% called them completely insufficient
- 10.8% considered them excessive and
- 16.9% found it difficult to answer.
More than a third (36.2%) of survey participants believed that self-isolation may stop the epidemic, 22.7% decided that frequent hand washing and distancing is more than enough and 34.8% rely on a vaccine that will be created in the future.