‘Hard-hitting’ advertising needed to shock people on Covid-19, Dáil told

Fine Gael TD claims awareness campaign urging hand washing ‘not tough enough’

Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins said the State’s messaging on Covid-19 was ‘stale, predictable, ineffective’. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins said the State’s messaging on Covid-19 was ‘stale, predictable, ineffective’. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

A Government backbencher has called for Road Safety Authority-style advertising on Covid-19 that will shock people because the current awareness campaign is “stale, predictable, ineffective”.

Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins said the message to wash hands and wear face coverings was “not tough enough” and was not getting through to the entire population.

The Dublin Mid-West TD highlighted a Scottish campaign which shows “an asymptomatic woman accidentally infect her grandfather, with Covid-19. The ad depicts the virus, as a visible green gunk that transfers from her hands to the cupboard she opens to grab the tea bags she uses to make him a cup of tea.

The ad shows her hug him goodbye oblivious to the damage she has done and it closes with a stark warning. “Don’t pass coronavirus to those you love.”

In Australia, very hard-hitting 30-second adverts depict a young man who infected his mother who is in ICU with Covid-19. He says “we visited her a few weeks back but I didn’t know I had Covid, I had no symptoms.”

But in Ireland, “after months of upheaval, months of research and development and unfortunately, over 2,000 deaths,” Ms Higgins asked “what is our message today?

“Wash your hands, cough into your elbow and download the Covid tracker App – stale, predictable, ineffective. We can do better than that,” she said.

She also told the Dáil the HSE social media strategy was overly reliant on Twitter with 1,300 messages but just 10 on TikTok. Ms Higgins questioned whether “our full audience is being reached” on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Snapchat.

Minister of State at the Department of Health Mary Butler acknowledged that Ms Higgins had made “significant points in relation to hard-hitting adverts” because “as we all know, Covid fatigue has set in”.

Ms Butler said she would pass on Ms Higgins’s information and data to the Department of Health and the HSE.