Managing the pandemic has undermined confidence in experts

The reversals in the instructions given and the lack of transparency on their foundations have sown confusion among the population. And it is the scientists who are paying the price.

Remember, just a few months ago, in France as in many countries outside of Asia, wearing a mask was not recommended for everyone. It must be said that the initial message from the World Health Organization (WHO) about personal protection against Covid-19 simply stressed that it was necessary in medical settings where infected patients were likely to cough directly on or near the nursing staff.

Knowledge about this brand new virus was still very scarce and experts hypothesized that it behaved similarly to the flu. We were far from the consensus saying that it can be transmitted by the aerosols that we emit when we breathe, which means that today the WHO considers that “Wearing a mask is one of the essential measures aimed at stopping transmission and saving lives”. But these shifts in the discourse of public authorities sowed confusion and undermined the confidence that the population places in them.

“The fundamental problem lies in the perfect assurance with which untimely decisions have been announced, estimate Stuart Ritchie, psychologist, and Michael Story, co-creator of a decision support app, in an article they co-authored in Unherd. When you take a stand without making the necessary reservations, it is very difficult, as long as the situation changes, to go back without losing face. ”


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