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Meet Australia's accidental leader, coronavirus expert Dr Norman Swan

In the absence of proper leadership, Australians have crowdsourced their own captain.

By Rebecca Sullivan
In times of crisis, we want to be guided through the unknown by strong, capable leaders.
Every ship needs a captain, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic - an absolute disaster of Titantic-esque proportions - it feels like our captain has well and truly jumped ship, or perhaps lost himself in a drunken stupor below deck.
In the absence of firm leadership during a time when we are desperately craving a steady hand on board (can Jacinda Ardern just babysit us for the next six months already?), Australians have instead handed over their trust to an unlikely recipient - doctor and journalist Dr Norman Swan.
The veteran ABC health presenter, who previously had a stint as the medical host on The Biggest Loser, has attracted a following of loyal disciples thanks to his starring role on the ABC's wildly popular Coronacast podcast, along with his stern daily explainers on 7.30 and Radio National.
"So good to hear the straight, honest, common sense advice tonight from Norman Swan," one fan commented on Facebook this week.
Another mused on Twitter: "Any time I mention 'Norman Swan', the response is immediate 'national treasure'. Regardless of age, regardless of location, Oz wide".
Our crowdsourced captain has been summoned for duty via emails, tweets and comments, all bearing similar messages to this plea posted by a fan just yesterday: "Australia needs you".
Dr Norman Swan is the host of the ABC's Coronacast podcast, the Health Report on Radio National and films regular explainer videos for 7.30. Image: ABC
But it seem this role of accidental leader is one Dr Swan is reluctant to embrace.
"There's something wrong with the system if it's me that people are relying on," Dr Swan told The Sydney Morning Herald in March.
"You see all these Twitter messages saying 'Norman for chief medical officer'. Thanks very much, but no. I don't want to be the national spokesperson for coronavirus. My job is to hold the government to account."
And despite his impressive resume - his bookcase houses a Gold Walkley Award, a Michael Daley Award and a UN Media Peace Award - Dr Swan has come under attack over his critique of the government's response to the coronavirus crisis.
Some believe his questioning of the official health advice only confuses people further. Others argue he is performing a heroic public duty and is simply syphoning the facts out of the scientific rhetoric and political garble.
Dr Swan has worked as a journalist for over 40 years, but is currently enjoying a surprise career renaissance, thanks to his ability to communicate clear health advice about the coronavirus pandemic. Image: Supplied
He's also uncomfortable with the increased interest in his personal life - type "Norman Swan" into Google and the most popular related search terms all enquire after his relationship status.
The 66-year-old Scotsman's soothing accent (and no doubt, his full head of hair) has earned him a legion of female fans, who have perhaps found themselves tuning into the ABC for more than just the latest coronavirus updates.
For the record, when contacted by Now To Love and asked if he was single or attached, Dr Swan declined to comment.
WATCH BELOW: The new coronavirus etiquette. Story continues after video.
The notoriously private Dr Swan does have three children, including journalist Jonathan Swan, a political correspondent who previously worked at The Sydney Morning Herald, and has now earned a name for himself in Washington DC as political website Axios' star reporter.
Jonathan, who is married to The Daily Beast reporter Betsy Woodruff, is believed to be one of a handful of journalists to whom US President Donald Trump directly feeds information.
US political reporter Jonathan Swan and his father Dr Norman Swan. Image: Facebook
Jonathan and his wife Betsy Woodruff. Image: Facebook
Although he displayed some symptoms of the deathly COVID-19 virus, Dr Swan was tested for the disease last week and returned a negative result.
He is currently self-isolating, but is still heading into the ABC offices in Sydney to record his podcast, radio and TV appearances, as his work is classified as an "essential service".
He is, after all, the captain of the ship.