A study analysing the coronavirus data given by the Spanish government in the days before and after the mass International Women’s Day protests held in March 2020 has revealed that certain information was concealed until after the event.
According to the unsettling conclusion made by Spanish researchers in a study published in the International Journal of Communication, on March 8, 2020, “the government had relevant data that the public and the Press were unaware of”, and the deceptive message that was given directly to the public by the government and their “lack of clear and efficient communication” led to “a false perception of the virus”.
The article is signed by Marta Martín-Llaguno, from the University of Alicante; Miguel Cuerdo Mir, from Rey Juan Carlos University; and the researchers María Teresa Ballestar and Jorge Sainz. It analyses the communication from the government in the days prior to the March 8 protests and the change in discourse the day after, which was immediately followed by the “discovery” of COVID-19 by Spanish society and the state of alarm.
The study highlights that March 9, 2020, was “the point of inflection between the pre-crisis and the outbreak”. “Before March 8, official sources concealed data and condemned alarm over the virus, with evaluations from the vice-president and the director of the Coordination Centre for Health Alerts and Emergencies,” explains the study.
The study considers that “from an empirical point of view, public concern and sentiment over the pandemic on Twitter varied over time. We also find a lack of information from authorised sources”.
“The results show that the public opinion changed in just a few days and became more negative, polarised, disappointed and concerned. Public concern and the recommendation for protective behaviours increased only when government communication changed after March 9,” concludes the study.
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