Highlights

Sasin Chula Counsels the Government to Communicate Clear Measures during Lockdowns


Faculty members from Sasin School of Management, Chulalongkorn University suggest that Thai people use positive energy to solve problems. The government must be the center of the lockdown and send clear messages about mitigating measures.


Sasin faculty members, in presenting an article titled “Lockdown, Communicate Clear Measures”, suggest Thai people join forces in solving problems through positive energy, with the government as the center of policy formulation and urgent implementation. Most importantly, communication must be clear and effective.

The lockdown – the more intense, the faster, the better

According to Kavakli (2020), many countries started implementing low-intensity lockdowns, then gradually increasing their scale as the situation escalates hoping to avoid the effects on the already-frail economy, and that light measures may be sufficient.  Such measures are to avoid impacting the people, and businesses large and small, who have been suffering and are dissatisfied with how the government runs the country.

Consumers’ purchase decisions have already been paralyzed by fears of the pandemic. An article by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (2020) shows that extensive and strict lockdowns are better than light and lax ones, both on outbreaks mitigation and the economy. With light and lax lockdowns, the number of new cases remains high. As a result, consumers reduce their economic activities because health risks are still present. Strict lockdowns, on the other hand, take a shorter time to control the outbreaks at a slightly higher economic capital but can minimize the number of new cases drastically and quickly and will lead to swifter economic recovery.

Good Lockdowns require clear economic and social measures

Before the lockdown is announced, the government must have clear economic and social measures for optimal results, and for the people to comply and be ready to cooperate, particularly on measures to ensure financial liquidity for the people, as well as large and small businesses, as done in many countries such as Germany, Australia, Singapore, France, etc.

  • Roll out quick and easy debt relief measures without additional interests for citizens and business owners
  • Enhance financial liquidity for people in four basic life necessities
  • Suspend tax payments for citizens and business owners until the situation improves.  People can pay back their taxes next year.
  • Help affected businesses by subsidizing workers’ wages at a reasonable rate so that the businesses can survive and do not have to let go of the employees.
  • Promote financial liquidity for entrepreneurs whose businesses are affected, such as hotels, aviation, tourism, and service industries.
  • Facilitate the affected businesses in their enrollment in the government’s COVID-19 stimulus programs (such as the project to convert hotels into Alternative State Quarantine venues) making the process convenient, quick and transparent to help sustain the businesses and their employees.
  • The success of these measures will depend on a quick, uncomplicated, and transparent process, as well as having clear responsible agencies that are easily accessible to the public.

Good communication done is half the battle won

One winning factor for many countries in their successful management of the COVID-19 pandemic is effective communication. Hyland-Wood et al. (2021) studied effective crisis communication by governments and summarized the following main points:

1. Communicate clearly and completely, especially directly to affected people to avoid confusion

such as what to do and what not to do.  Policies to harmoniously support all the government measures should be in place, and the messages, especially from the government,  should show clear directions, accurate, and without confusion.

2. Communicate information by experts to ensure credibility

for example, if it is a medical-related issue and would have a broad impact, scientists or medical personnel with credibility and expertise should give the press conference.

3. Communicate with empathy, sincerity, and honesty

such as showing an understanding of the problem and communicating compassionately with positive words.

4. Communicate about any uncertainties that may arise in the future

such as uncertain situations that may be unavoidable should be communicated to set the right expectations.

5. Communicate with listeners’ background and understanding in mind

so that the policies can be carried out effectively, for example, use simple examples to prevent confusion and misunderstanding.

6. Communicate with awareness of the socioeconomic diversity of the people

for example,  migrant workers, the elderly, or young people.

7. Communicate proactively to counteract false information

by providing accurate information, and seriously prosecute those who provide false information.

The government must recognize the importance of clear communication especially about policies that must have clear countermeasures for those affected. The IMF article (2020) showed that public awareness of the crisis helps people to be more aware and increase precautions, reduce mobility and cooperate more with the measures. This will have a positive effect on reducing the spread of the pandemic. Therefore, presenting the news that is true even if it causes fear, because fear of the truth is a good thing, shouldn’t be banned.  The government should expedite the search for vaccines so that Thai people can all get vaccinated. Having any vaccine to reduce the mortality rate is definitely better than none.


References

Hyland-Wood, B., Gardner, J., Leask, J. et al. Toward effective government communication strategies in the era of COVID-19. HumanitSocSciCommun8, 30 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-020-00701-w

Caselli, F., Grigoli, F., Lian, W., &Sandri, D. (2020). “Chapter 2 The Great Lockdown: Dissecting the Economic Effects”. In World Economic Outlook, October 2020. USA: International Monetary Fund. Retrieved Jul 19, 2021, from https://www.elibrary.imf.org/view/books/081/29296-9781513556055-en/ch002.xml

The sense of kinship and warmth found in the Chula community is priceless and a treasure worth keeping.

Prof. Dr. Pornanong Aramwit Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chulalongkorn University