Journalists are over reporting cases of the Mers coronavirus sparking unnecessary concerns just like they did with the Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus in 2002, said a UAE-based travel industry executive in Dubai on Thursday.
Duncan Alexander, Director of the Travel Marketing Store, responded to a Gulf News question at a media event to travel industry executives from Saudi Arabia asking whether there had been any economic impact of the virus on the country’s industry. Both executives said there had been no impact; however, before they could answer Alexander said the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome infection is a victim of “bad journalism”.
Alexander, who is also the managing director for West Asia at the Pacific Asia Travel Association, was moderating a panel at the launch of an Amadeus report. Amadeus provides travel analysis.
His comments follow an announcement this week from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health that it has underreported cases of the virus. It has killed 282 people in Saudi Arabia and infected 688 since 2012. The virus has spread to a number of other countries and in the UAE it has killed 10.
Alexander pointed out that the World Health Organisation has not declared Mers a global emergency. He linked his claims with what he said was shoddy journalism reporting in 2002 and 2003 on Sars, which was also not declared a pandemic, killed 775 and infected 8,273.
Alexander also likened bad reporting and its impact on the tourism industry with Thailand, which he said the media has also overblown. A junta has taken control of the country and moved to censor local and international media.