How to do the right thing in a pandemic

The precautionary principle can save lives

The world has become a lot more dangerous and uncertain. We have not seen a pandemic the likes of COVID-19 for a century. Within three short months over 250,000 people have been confirmed to have the virus, while hundreds of thousands more are infected and undiagnosed. Naturally people are looking to scientists to provide answers for how we can and should respond to this pandemic.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has capitalised on this by seeking to dress his political decisions in the veneer of science. He has consistently referred to his ‘scientific’ and ‘evidence-based’ approach to justify his political decisions. He has enlisted the chief medical and scientific advisers to accompany him in speeches and interviews to reinforce this framing.

Yet, despite this, many people have cogently criticised the UK for lagging behind our European neighbours and for essentially getting the science wrong. And it is true that the behavioural psychologists who have pl

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