Should scientists be on the podium?

Catherine Fieschi watches the dance of the daily briefing.

The World Today Updated 28 September 2020 Published 1 June 2020 2 minute READ

Catherine Fieschi

Director, Counterpoint

COVID-19 has given rise to an interesting piece of political performance in our democracies: the daily briefing.

Like most traditions, the briefings emerged half-formed. At the beginning, as the wave of infection spread and grew, they took the form of emergency broadcasts. Over time, they adapted to the situation and incorporated the appropriate experts. But across the world the variable geometry of the briefing set-up was revealing of the place granted to science, and most of all of the place leaders were granting themselves.

In Greece, incredibly successful in its management of the virus, politicians knew better than to take centre-stage – the health minister is a retired professional basketball player. In his place was the soft-spoken expert on infectious diseases, Sotiris Tsiodras, who became the nation’s favourite doctor.

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