Government Criticised For Lack Of Foreign Translations Of Covid-19 Guidance

The government has been criticised for failing to provide up to date guidance relating to the Covid-19 health crisis and the rules currently in place in the UK in enough foreign languages.

Doctors of the World is one of the charities to criticise the government for its approach, with the BBC reporting that it has translated guidance into documents, audio guides and videos for 60 different languages.

According to the charity, the government has “completely forgotten and left out this patient group”, which means they are “at increased risk of catching the virus and are unable to protect themselves or their families”.

The government told the news provider that it had translated its guidance into 25 languages to help it reach “a wide audience”.

However, the BBC revealed that 88 languages are spoken as main languages across England and Wales, with four million people stating that they don’t consider English to be their main language.

Anna Miller, head of policy and advocacy at Doctors of the World, told the news site that Public Health England and the Department of Health had failed to engage with the charity when it pointed out the issues with its strategy.

“It’s just been an absolute lack of communication, or refusal to communicate, from central government that has meant we’ve had to get on and do [the translations] as the government doesn’t exist,” Ms Miller asserted.

She added that the government should have prioritised sharing public health information with everyone in the country. “Everybody includes people who don’t speak English,” she stated.

Of course, information relating to the Covid-19 crisis has been evolving rapidly, with guidance sometimes changing incredibly quickly.

But there is clear demand for such information in various languages. The resources produced by Doctors of the World have been downloaded some 600,000 times, the news provider revealed. Among the organisations using them are police forces, as well as those that provide accommodation to asylum seekers.

The BBC revealed that the top ten languages spoken in England and Wales, other than English, are Polish, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Arabic, French, All Other Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish.

Borgen Magazine recently explained how US-based charity Translators Without Borders is helping to ensure that people all over the world receive up to date and accurate guidance relating to Covid-19.

The publication explained that the charity uses voice recordings of its translations to help share information, especially in areas that have high rates of illiteracy. It is also carrying out social media monitoring to identify gaps in knowledge and help ensure that credible and useful information is shared with people across these platforms.

It’s also developing chatbots to target people in certain countries where this kind of communication channel might be preferred and therefore well-used. Translators Without Borders also revealed that it has had 8,000 new translators sign up to support its service since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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