The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the paramount necessity of clear and rapid communications from the Government which can be easily understood and actioned by the public.
Downing Street’s regular press conference represent a valiant effort in communication by Ministers and scientists, but their long-form format including occasionally lengthy questions and digressions does foster a degree of fatigue from an already beleaguered public keen to learn only crucial developments and advice.
A British Emergency Mobile Alert (EMA) system could solve this issue by automatically sending SMS updates, alerts and advice to mobile phones. This system is in place in many countries which have handled the pandemic most successfully, such as New Zealand and South Korea, suggesting a link between the efficacy of public safety measures and the state’s ability to harness modern technology to communicate them.
Although the Government did send out a single alert at the pandemic’s outset, the effectiveness of strategies to defeat pandemics and other public crises in the future would be greatly aided by the creation of a more regular emergency mobile alert system, either through an application which can be voluntarily downloaded, or through the co-operation of wireless network providers who would distribute Government messages to their customers, the public.