The sanitary crisis generated by the Covid-19: an unprecedented event that caught the world by surprise.
According to the Federal Office of Public Health, the number of new cases, hospitalisations and deaths recorded daily in Switzerland continues to decrease. In contrast, the United States is currently the most affected country. Russia is also facing a sharp increase in contamination. In addition, some countries that had managed to control the progression of the pandemic, such as Japan and Singapore, are now facing a second wave. In this period of global health crisis, risk communication plays a key role in order to prevent the spread of the pandemic as much as possible.
Risk communication, as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is: exchange of real-time information, advice and opinions between experts, community leaders, political decision-makers and people who face a threat to their wellbeing.
In fact, when a pandemic such as the current one occurs, effective risk communication enables people to understand the measures they need to adopt to protect themselves. It provides the authorities with the means to reduce misinformation and respond to the public concerns. The illustration below is an example of risk communication in Switzerland.
Risk communication is essential, but during a global crisis, the sharing of information between countries and their institutions is critical.
The virus has spread from country to country according to the cases of contamination. Therefore, certain countries were affected before others and, at a given moment, each country went through a different stage of the wave of contamination. For example, when Italy experienced its peak of contamination, Switzerland was still in the initial phase of the spread of the virus.
This time difference has enabled the first affected countries to share information with countries not yet affected by the pandemic. Governments benefiting from clear information sharing have been able to mobilise by being effective in their risk communication.
Information sharing has played a critical role in managing the pandemic. It remains of major importance as countries consider ending containment and returning to normal life. The success of this phase will depend on the application of the prevention directives communicated by the authorities. These guidelines are based on all the information shared by the authorities of the different countries regarding the pandemic. Consistency in the terminology used throughout the communication will be essential to ensure effective information sharing.
According to the Universalis encyclopedia, terminology is the discipline that deals with scientific or technical vocabulary. Its aim is to study the way in which science and technology designate objects and phenomena.
When the first international organisations were founded, a multilingual terminology had to be developed in order to allow representatives of different countries to communicate clearly. The creation of multilingual glossaries has made it possible to establish terminology ensuring consistency between the different languages. Each area obviously requires its own glossary and the sanitary crisis that the world is currently going through is no exception. In the early stages of the pandemic, information was only available in a limited number of languages, preventing entire populations from having access to vital information because they could not understand it. Translators without Borders has therefore developed a glossary specific to the sanitary crisis generated by the Covid-19. This glossary includes twenty-three languages, including those in which information was not available.
What lessons can we learn from this situation?
We live in a globalised world, witnessing countless multilingual exchanges. In the context of a global sanitary crisis, the sharing of information is an important factor of saving lives. The practice of sharing information imperatively includes clarity of the terminology chosen. Priority is given to the quality of translation and interpretation in order to prevent any misunderstanding and any misinformation.