The Coronavirus Is More Than Just a Health Crisis
The really difficult decisions are political
It turns out that even populists need experts.
This was the message, at least, from the British government this week as it published its plan to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. At a press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, flanked by his chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, and chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, sought to reassure the public that the country was well equipped to deal with the virus. In the likely next stages of the crisis, Johnson said, the government would follow the science.
The irony of the moment was not lost on critics who lambast Johnson as a charlatan who duped the country into Brexit with a series of lies about what it entailed while actively disparaging the “experts” who warned voters not to take the risk. Michael Gove, a cabinet minister who is one of Johnson’s closest allies in government, declared during that campaign, “The people of this country have had enough of experts from organizations with acronyms saying they know what is best, and getting it consistently wrong.” Now in power, Johnson will turn to those very experts to ensure that the crisis originating in a faraway land does not turn into one at home.
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