This is a summary of the trending, highest impact, and most active themes and their narratives related to social cohesion and division in South African public-domain social media conversations. A 24-hour trend report can be downloaded for media.
Health workers hit
The day’s top trending topics included many news and social media stories about more healthcare workers testing positive for Covid-19 and hospital beds filling up rapidly.
One report said 150 healthcare workers at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town had tested positive for Covid-19. Reports of 3 staff members testing positive at George Provincial Hospital also emerged yesterday evening. The City of Joburg posted yesterday: “the City of Joburg Health Department today closed Eldorado Park Extension 2 clinic after one of its staff members, who is a nurse, tested positive for COVID-19. The facility has since been closed and all staff told to self-isolate”. Tracing was in place for all possible cases and the facility would be sanitized.
COSATU posted its concerns around healthcare worker safety after the Mpumalanga Department of Health temporarily closed the Driekoppies Clinic in the Nkomazi Local Municipality after one of the staff members had tested positive. The North West Department of Arts, Culture, Sport & Recreation posted that the Mafikeng Provincial Hospital had been decontaminated after a doctor at the hospital tested positive for Covid-19.
The health and safety of health workers drove significant volumes on social media yesterday, trending 5th by volume at one stage.
A News24 story posted at 07:30 received mass traction:“ICU beds for Covid-19 patients 'already full' in Cape Town's largest hospital”. The article said the 25 beds set aside at Tygerberg Hospital for Covid-19 patients were already full. The Health Department said:“the hospital should not be seen in isolation from the provincial plan in managing the Covid-19 pandemic”, adding that 90% of those who contract Covid-19 would not need hospitalization.
Co-host of @Podlitiek Daniël Eloff claimed:“the Gauteng Department of Health's Covid-19 testing reagent is finished”. The tweet was not supported by any evidence, but received over 380 likes, retweets and comments.
Another tweet that gained some traction yesterday referred to the US donating 1 000 ventilators to South Africa. The initial announcement was made two weeks ago, but a post at 09:29 yesterday reignited social media engagement.
Doctors at odds
Controversial comments made by Dr Glenda Gray became the day’s top trending topic: she claimed that scientists were giving government good advice but the strategy being implemented to fight Covid-19 was not based on science.
@FullViewSABC’s tweet announcing an interview with Professor Salim Abdool Karim to clarify the comments had the 3rd highest reach.
Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize tweeted a response to media queries at 23:00 last night, addressing Dr Gray’s comments. The post was retweeted over 800 times. Dr Mkhize said divergent views were healthy and welcomed, but decisions were ultimately taken by government, and those who contributed to the process should desist from potentially destructive behaviour.
At 17.01 @FullViewSABC asked the public to send questions to @Chriseldalewis as Professor Karim would appear on the show at 20:00 to clarify any recent misgivings around Dr Gray’s comments.
Most responders posed questions about the education department and the safety of learners and educators if they returned to school.
Many Twitter users said Dr Gray should be taken to task for spreading misinformation, and challenged journalists who spread her views.
@Jonathan_Witt tweeted: “bar a few decent journalists the rest have been despicable fearmongering louts who have parroted the worst modeling & cheerlead the greatest government overreaches. These people need to be shunned.”
This post was retweeted more than 150 times, with responders echoing Witt’s statement and discussing poor reporting around the virus and the degeneration of journalism. “Rasputin” called for a purge of parliament, government and the media.
Out of work
The 2nd biggest post by reach yesterday was about raising money to support new mothers who had lost their jobs, as the economic impact of the lockdown continues to drive conversation about job losses.
A TransUnion study on job losses as a result of the coronavirus found that 14% of respondents had lost their jobs since the pandemic started.
@HermanMashaba tweeted a link to the study, saying almost 1 in 6 South Africans have lost their jobs as a result of Coronavirus, and the lockdown was causing more harm than the virus. Responses to the tweet were mixed, but most tended to be negative about the economic prospects for South Africans. Some commentators asked about how foreigners would be excluded from jobs, while others commented that the UIF system was so overloaded with applications that it was not functional.
@anele tweeted that the #947breakfastclub had raised R72 500 of the targeted R100 000 to buy childcare essentials for new moms who lost their jobs as a result of coronavirus. The tweet was second by reach within the total conversation on Coronavirus yesterday, reaching 113 767. It was liked more than 900 times and retweeted 220 times yesterday.
@News24’s tweet about actress Patricia Boyer saying she would be homeless if she did not have a second job was the 10th biggest yesterday, with a reach of over 81 000.
Issued by the Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change.
See Cabc.org.za for daily reports
A deep analysis on any of these issues is available on request.
The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) is a non-profit organisation based at UCTs Graduate School of Business and incubated by the Allan Gray Centre for Values-Based Leadership. It was established to track and counter mis- and disinformation, fake news and divisive and polarising rhetoric that is promulgated online to undermine social cohesion, democratic integrity, and the stability of nation states.
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