Governments around the world have been working on solutions to the COVID-19 situation day in, day out for over a year now. They need to devise and implement unprecedented and far-reaching measures to quell this pandemic. Communication from these governments is key. After all, how do you get a country’s citizens to give up their freedom for so long and so drastically? This requires clear and centrally managed communication. It is for good reason that the heads of government have taken the lead when it comes to informing the media. They hold press conferences and speeches announcing the most important measures and changes.
Tuesday at 7 PM
This is also the case in the Netherlands. So far, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte has held more than twenty coronavirus press conferences. Initially together with Jaap van Dissel, director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Control (CIb) of the Dutch Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), and later with Hugo de Jonge, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport.
Each press conference was held on a Tuesday evening at 19:00 and broadcast live on various TV channels. On average, around 6 million people tune in to watch them. The Netherlands has 17.2 million residents. No TV broadcast scores such high ratings.
Understanding is everything
It is essential that every resident of a country—the Netherlands, in our case—understands what is said at these press conferences. During the press conferences in the Netherlands, a sign language interpreter is on stage to interpret the message into sign language in real time. This underlines the value of making sure that everyone can understand the message.
What stood out was that there was initially no provision for non-native speakers. As such, Global Talk decided—on our own initiative—to translate the press conferences (the spoken word translated) into eight foreign languages which are common in the Netherlands: Syrian Arabic, Turkish, Polish, Tigrinya (spoken in Eritrea), Moroccan Arabic, Farsi (often spoken by people from Iran and Afghanistan, for example), Berber and English. This will allow everyone to understand the latest measures in their own language. In my view, this is essential in fighting the pandemic.