It was two years ago. A little dazed, we discovered the reality of a global epidemic and its consequences on our daily lives. Confined, we witnessed through interposed screens human tragedies caused by illness and death, but also unprecedented outbursts of solidarity. We dreamed of a new Adelphity and of a “next world” that would necessarily be more human and more united. We also longed for a world where scientific experts, those specialists who sound the alarm about future disasters, would finally have the attention of our leaders.
We also expected a lot from science and its discoveries to get us out of this mess and get back to a “normal” life.
Two years later, if we have given up on this idealized “next world” (we have to believe that confinement transforms people into Care Bears), the least we can say is that, collectively, we have learned a lot – and not just to bake bread.
In order to establish a sort of provisional assessment of these instructions, both empirical and theoretical, we have surveyed a few health actors and keen observers of the health crisis.
When asked what they have learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, the answers fall into very diverse registers. For some, it is above all a question of knowledge of a sanitary and hygienist nature: “The crisis has shown us the importance of wearing masks during a respiratory pandemic. It made it possible to really take into consideration the transmission by aerosols, and to grasp the interest of ventilating and limiting contact”explains Dr Michaël Rochoy, general practitioner and member of the collective On the side of science. Hoping that the habit of protecting others when you are sick continues after the end of the epidemic.
Others, like Éric Billy, researcher in immuno-oncology, point to advances in scientific research: “We learned that we were able to work collectively to advance research. People with diverse skills have managed to come together to bring out knowledge, and we have seen a great boom in open science.”
But, as Jérôme Martin, co-founder of theObservatory of Transparency in Medicines Policies (OTMeds), the crisis has also taught us that “science can be used for political ends”. She also showed how “it is a mistake to see science as something fixed”. For the public health specialist, if the crisis has given a platform to the most conspiratorial and anti-science remarks, “She also showed the dangers of a form of scientistic obscurantism. We found ourselves in situations where nuanced discourse was impossible.”
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This was the case, for example, with speeches from doctors and scientists in favor of vaccination but who pointed out the undesirable effects of certain vaccines on categories of the population, or who simply explained that vaccines do not protect against infection, but only against severe forms. This while government communication presented them as a panacea, a totem of absolute immunity.
After the episode of masks, which we were told were useless to the general population to hide their shortage, even though scientific and medical recommendations said the opposite, these speeches aroused waves of mistrust. However, “transparency is an essential lever to guide health democracy”recalls Jérôme Martin.
Inform at all costs
This is also what Éric Billy reminds us: “The crisis has reminded us how crucial it is to inform in a transparent and educational way.” The immunologist deplores the “phenomenal quantity” health authorities in France. “So many learned societies, committees, agencies and councils of the order that have not taken their responsibilities apart from political interests.” For him, nothing has been done to prevent the elites from “flaunting their incompetence” in the press and on TV sets, and to infringe the “necessary caution” which falls to them.
Dr. Christian Lehmann, general practitioner, writer and author of a “Outbreak Diary” in the columns of Liberation, abounds: “The crisis taught me that we could not trust the government, which throughout these two years held a diverse and barred discourse, and showed its ability to deny the next day what it affirmed the day before. » A succession of lies which he asserts have “killed the real”.
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Christian Lehmann develops: “I learned that it was absolutely necessary to defend reality because the lie makes the bed of those who will follow. There is no turning back after lying to the public. Today, the simple respect for the truth is to be rebuilt. And to add: “We learned that a level of disinformation comparable to that which we observed in the USA is possible in France, that part of the population is capable of opening its brain and letting it eat it.” Because, of course, misinformation also abounded from all sides: “How to make society with people who refuse to make society?” asks the doctor today.
Desperately looking to live together
Being part of society also means knowing how to work for everyone’s health. And, in this, the health crisis has delivered – or at least recalled – major lessons, with a view to ensuring everyone around the world has access to medicines, diagnostic tools, vaccines and essential health goods. .
Jérôme Martin points out some essential aspects: “We must rethink the production of medicines and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks. This requires reviewing the structural factors that push to relocate their production.
While the health crisis has been a glaring indicator of inequalities in access to medicines around the world, Jérôme Martin ardently defends the lifting of patents on medicines and vaccines, and their removal from all that relates to intellectual property. “The shortage of PCR tests has also shown this: the fact that the laboratory machines are closed and that they only work with reagents of the same brand is an aberration.”
But the observation is also stinging: if the experts interviewed tell us that they have learned things, they all regret that the government and health authorities as well as the general public have, in the end, learned nothing from this unprecedented health crisis. “If we saw outbursts of generosity at the start of the pandemic, we also saw how people are able to reconnect with selfishness as soon as they feel protected”laments Christian Lehmann. “I am ashamed of the world we bequeath to young people”he concludes bitterly.
The “world after” is definitely no better, or better, than the world before.