National health governance, science and the media: drivers of COVID-19 responses in Germany, Sweden and the UK in 2020.

Hanson C, Luedtke S, Spicer N, Stilhoff Sörensen J, Mayhew S, Mounier-Jack S

BMJ Glob Health 6 (12) - [2021-12-00; online 2021-12-08]

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis in which governments had to act in a situation of rapid change and substantial uncertainty. The governments of Germany, Sweden and the UK have taken different paths allowing learning for future pandemic preparedness. To help inform discussions on preparedness, inspired by resilience frameworks, this paper reviews governance structures, and the role of science and the media in the COVID-19 response of Germany, Sweden and the UK in 2020. We mapped legitimacy, interdependence, knowledge generation and the capacity to deal with uncertainty.Our analysis revealed stark differences which were linked to pre-existing governing structures, the traditional role of academia, experience of crisis management and the communication of uncertainty-all of which impacted on how much people trusted their government. Germany leveraged diversity and inclusiveness, a 'patchwork quilt', for which it was heavily criticised during the second wave. The Swedish approach avoided plurality and largely excluded academia, while in the UK's academia played an important role in knowledge generation and in forcing the government to review its strategies. However, the vivant debate left the public with confusing and rapidly changing public health messages. Uncertainty and the lack of evidence on how best to manage the COVID-19 pandemic-the main feature during the first wave-was only communicated explicitly in Germany. All country governments lost trust of their populations during the epidemic due to a mix of communication and transparency failures, and increased questioning of government legitimacy and technical capacity by the public.

Type: Review

PubMed 34872972

DOI 10.1136/bmjgh-2021-006691

Crossref 10.1136/bmjgh-2021-006691

pmc: PMC8764706
pii: bmjgh-2021-006691

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