Key information on COVID-19 for broadcasters



Basic information about COVID-19

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1. How the virus is spread from person to person

People catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease is spread through small droplets produced when infected people cough, sneeze, or exhale. These droplets can be inhaled by people nearby or land on nearby objects and surfaces. When people inhale droplets or touch contaminated objects or surfaces, then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth, they can be infected. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 metre away from a person who is sick. Most countries have enacted distancing policies which state that, for maximum protection against spread of the COVID-19 virus, individuals should keep at least 1 metre away from all other individuals except their families.

2. Symptoms of infection

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some infected people have no symptoms and don’t feel ill. Most people (about 80%) recover without special treatment. About 1 in 6 people become seriously ill. Older people and people with health issues such as heart problems, diabetes, and high blood pressure are more likely to become seriously ill. People with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

3. Precautionary measures

Wash your hands frequently. Clean your hands regularly and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses on your hands.

Maintain social / physical distancing. Maintain at least 1 metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Why? When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you may breathe in the droplets. Most countries have enacted distancing policies which state that, for maximum protection against spread of the COVID-19 virus, individuals should keep at least 1 metre away from all other individuals except their families.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, your hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose, or mouth. From there, it can enter your body and make you sick.

Practice good respiratory hygiene. When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue. Dispose of the used tissue immediately. Why? Droplets spread the virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you can protect the people around you from COVID-19 and other viruses such as colds and the flu.

If you have fever, a cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Stay home if you feel unwell. Seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority. Why? National and local authorities have the most up-to-date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance allows your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will protect you and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Practice safe greetings. To avoid COVID-19, it is safest to avoid physical contact when greeting. Safe greetings include a wave, a nod, or a bow.

Tips for broadcasters: Staying safe while continuing to work

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1. Work at a distance: Whenever possible, conduct interviews and team meetings via WhatsApp or by phone.

2. If you must conduct a face-to-face interview, respect physical distancing. Attach a long selfie-stick or pole to your microphone. Also, stand at an angle to interviewees rather than face-on. If it’s not possible to following physical distancing, consider cancelling the interview.

3. Disinfect yourself and your equipment: Disinfect hands before entering the studio or using equipment like microphones, tables, desks, computers, chairs, and offices, and disinfect your hands afterwards. Clean soundboards after each show. Disinfect with soap and water or an alcohol-based solution, including gel or wipes. Don’t forget to clean your phone!

4. Take care of your mental health: Even the most experienced journalists may struggle psychologically when reporting on COVID-19. Management should regularly check in with staff to see how they are coping and offer guidance and support. Take regular breaks and pay attention to your energy level and fatigue, remembering that tired individuals are more likely to make mistakes with their hygiene.

5. Don’t leave equipment lying around when you are on assignment. Also, use a hard-sided case to store it. It is easier to wipe down and clean a hard-sided case. Put everything back in the case when not using it, and close the case.

6. When on assignment, safely put on and take off Personal Protective Equipment. This includes disposable gloves, face masks, protective aprons, overalls, and bodysuits, and disposable shoe covers. The risk of contamination is high, so take these measures seriously. If in doubt, seek expert guidance and training before going on assignment.

7. Consider staying away from sick people. Though hospitals and health centres may be “where the big story is,” consider not visiting to maintain your own health and safety. You might choose to cover other stories related to COVID-19. This may mean avoiding health centres, testing centres, morgues, refugee camps, quarantine zones, densely packed urban areas, or the homes of sick people.

8. Take great care when interacting with older people and those with underlying medical conditions. These groups of people are at greater risk from COVID-19, so you may choose to conduct phone or WhatsApp interviews. If you fall into one of these categories yourself, you may decide it’s safest to stay home.

9. Make plans with your colleagues and your family. Discuss your management team’s plans if they need to assist and support you if you fall ill while on assignment. Keep in mind that you may need to self-isolate and/or may be grounded in a quarantine/lockdown zone for an extended period of time.

For more information from the Committee to Protect Journalists, go to:

The truth about myths, misinformation, and fake news related to COVID-19

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1. To date, no specific medicines have been identified that prevent or treat COVID-19. Infected persons should receive care to relieve and treat symptoms. Those persons with severe illness should receive appropriate care. Some specific treatments are being investigated, and will be tested through clinical trials.

2. Chloroquine is not a cure for COVID-19. Chloroquine is used to treat malaria, and is being tested as a treatment for COVID-19. But it is not a cure, and testing continues. Be careful: while chloroquine is a generally safe medication, there have been some reported cases of negative side effects.

3. There is a false rumour that “African blood and black skin resists COVID-19.” There is no scientific evidence to support this. And many Africans are among those infected with COVID-19.

4. You cannot catch COVID-19 through contact with animals. There are rumours circulating that poultry and other livestock can infect humans with COVID-19. These rumours are false. There is no evidence to suggest that any kind of animal can transmit COVID-19 to humans. Human infections are caused by person-to-person contact or contact with contaminated surfaces.

5. Drinking alcohol does NOT protect you against COVID-19 and can be dangerous. The only alcohol the World Health Organization recommends using to fight COVID-19 is an alcohol-based hand rub. In fact, frequent or excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk of health problems, from cancer to liver damage.

6. Vaccines against pneumonia will NOT protect you against COVID-19. The COVID-19 virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine.

7. Antibiotics are NOT effective in preventing and treating COVID-19. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. COVID-19 is a virus and antibiotics should not be used to prevent or treat it. However, if you are hospitalized with COVID-19, you may receive antibiotics for other infections.

8. There are false rumours that some substances can cure or prevent infection with COVID-19. These include drinking a mix of lemon and baking soda, breathing steam from boiling orange or lemon peels, eating alkaline food, and gargling with salt or vinegar water. According to the World Health Organization, the way to prevent being infected with COVID-19 and prevent the virus from spreading is to wash your hands frequently, maintain at least one metre distance between yourself and someone who is sneezing or coughing, avoid touching your face, and cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

9. Exposing yourself to the sun or to temperatures higher than 25 degrees DOES NOT prevent COVID-19. You can catch COVID-19 no matter how sunny or hot the weather is. Countries with hot weather have reported many cases of COVID-19. To protect yourself, make sure you clean your hands frequently and thoroughly and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

10. There is a false rumour that “constant sex kills COVID-19.” Like other forms of contact, sexual activity can actually be a risk factor for infection.

11. Taking a hot bath or using a hot hand dryer will NOT prevent you from catching COVID-19. According to the World Health organization, some remedies may help alleviate the symptoms of COVID-19, but there is no evidence that any current medicine or activity can prevent or cure the disease.

12. Eating garlic will NOT help prevent infection with COVID-19. Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence that eating garlic can protect people from COVID-19.

13. COVID-19 CANNOT be transmitted through mosquito bites.There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by mosquitoes. COVID-19 spreads through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.

14. 5G mobile networks do NOT spread COVID-19. Viruses cannot travel on radio waves or mobile networks. COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks.

15. Being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort DOES NOT mean you are free from COVID-19. The World Health Organization advises people who think they might have COVID-19 to stay home and seek medical attention by calling their local health authority. The best way to confirm if you have the COVID-19 virus is with a laboratory test. You cannot confirm it with this breathing exercise, which could be dangerous.

For the latest fact-checking from the World Health Organization, go to:

Africa Check is also a great source of fact-checked myths and misconceptions. Go to:

Some useful facts about how COVID-19 works

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1. You CAN recover from COVID-19. Catching COVID-19 does NOT mean you will have it for life. Most people who catch COVID-19 recover and eliminate the virus from their bodies. If you catch the disease, make sure you treat your symptoms. If you have cough, fever, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early – but call your health facility by telephone first. Most patients recover with care.

2. COVID-19 doesn’t just affect older people – it affects people of all ages. Older people and people with medical conditions such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with COVID-19. The World Health Organization advises people of all ages to protect themselves from the virus by, for example, following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

3. You need to be with an infected person for 10 minutes to catch COVID-19. This is FALSE. It is possible to be infected in a shorter period of time – or by picking up the virus from contaminated surfaces.

4. When clean water is not available, slightly dirty water is effective against COVID-19 if you use soap when washing your hands. For more information, see this story from SciDev.Net.

5. Various vaccines have been developed, and continue to be developed. Some vaccines have been approved for use in some countries. However, availability is better in some countries than others. Before they are approved for use in your country, vaccines must be proven to be effective and safe


This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.

Information sources

Africa Check. “All our coronavirus fact-checks in one place”

Broom, Fiona. “Slightly dirty water ‘still ok’ against coronavirus.” SciDev.Net. 20 March 2020.

Committee to Protect Journalists. “CPJ Safety Advisory: Covering the coronavirus outbreak.” 10 February 2020.

World Health Organization. “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters.”