European governments struggled to manage pandemic well, finds 3-country study – Medical Xpress

Forget Password?
Learn more
share this!
December 6, 2021
European governments have struggled to manage the pandemic well and maintain public trust, finds an analysis of the handling of the COVID-19 crisis by Germany, Sweden, and the UK, published in the open access journal BMJ Global Health.

A lack of transparency around , mixed messaging, and increased questioning of government legitimacy and technical capacity fuelled public distrust, conclude the researchers.
The governments of Germany, Sweden and the UK all took different approaches to the handling of the first and second waves of the pandemic in 2020. And the researchers wanted to know which, if any, of these nations’ strategies worked well, with a view to informing future preparedness for similar crises.
They focused on differences in government structures, the role of academics/scientists, and communication with the public—particularly amid scientific uncertainty—between all three countries in 2020, in line with a previously published (Blanchet) resilience framework.
The researchers mapped the legitimacy of governance and decision-making; interdependence between the community and other actors, including scientists and the media; official messaging; and the capacity to deal with uncertainty.
They analyzed the policies of each country in relation to these elements, drawing on information from government, public health agencies, and mass media websites as well as published research.
All three countries detected their first cases of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19 infection, in January 2020, triggering their first responses, but they only started to act more decisively when community transmission became apparent in early March.
The analysis revealed stark differences in responses to waves 1 and 2 of the pandemic, 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 influenced how much people trusted their government.
Germany allowed broad academic involvement and societal debate, but unlike the UK, didn’t have population-based data on which to base its decisions. The media were willing and able to reflect the evolving science and the difficulties of translating science into policy, however.
But uncertainty and the lack of evidence on how best to manage the COVID-19 pandemic—the main feature during the first wave—were only communicated explicitly in Germany, note the researchers.
Although this made it substantially easier to adapt messages over time, it overwhelmed the nation in the second wave, and the government was heavily criticized as a result.
In Sweden the communication of uncertainty was perceived as inappropriate on the grounds that it could stoke fear; different views weren’t given voice and scientists and academics were largely excluded: the government instead delegated the handling of the pandemic to its Public Health Agency.
The loss of was less in Sweden than in the UK or Germany, but this approach might have hampered more critical debate, and it remains to be seen what impact the quasi-abdication of government responsibility will have in the long term, say the researchers.
In the UK, academics and scientists had a key role in generating information and in forcing the government to review its strategies. But this meant the public was then subjected to confusing and rapidly changing public health messaging.
All three country governments lost the trust of their people. The YouGov COVID-19 tracker revealed that people had more confidence in their governments during the first wave than in the second, with the steepest fall in confidence registered in the UK, tied to the lack of transparency in the ‘s decision making process.
“Our hypothesis generating analysis suggests that crisis preparedness and resilience framing will need to encompass those governance structures beyond health that enable (i) strong and legitimate leadership, facilitating decentralized action; and (ii) trusted links to science and advisory bodies.
“A media structure which is prepared to communicate science and facilitate debate seems to support resilience” the researchers conclude, adding: “Cross-country learning should trump nationalism.”

Explore further

How COVID-19 has increased the world’s trust in science

More information: National health governance, science and the media: drivers of COVID-19 responses in Germany, Sweden and the UK in 2020, DOI: 10.1136/bmjgh-2021-006691

Journal information: BMJ Global Health

Citation: European governments struggled to manage pandemic well, finds 3-country study (2021, December 6) retrieved 8 December 2021 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further
Feedback to editors
Dec 07, 2021
Dec 07, 2021
Dec 07, 2021
Dec 07, 2021
Dec 03, 2021
1 hour ago
4 hours ago
4 hours ago
4 hours ago
5 hours ago
5 hours ago
5 hours ago
Nov 29, 2021
Jan 08, 2021
Nov 24, 2021
Aug 17, 2020
May 22, 2020
Oct 05, 2021
5 hours ago
5 hours ago
11 hours ago
11 hours ago
9 hours ago
8 hours ago
Use this form if you have come across a typo, inaccuracy or would like to send an edit request for the content on this page. For general inquiries, please use our contact form. For general feedback, use the public comments section below (please adhere to guidelines).
Please select the most appropriate category to facilitate processing of your request
Thank you for taking time to provide your feedback to the editors.
Your feedback is important to us. However, we do not guarantee individual replies due to the high volume of messages.
Your email address is used only to let the recipient know who sent the email. Neither your address nor the recipient’s address will be used for any other purpose. The information you enter will appear in your e-mail message and is not retained by Medical Xpress in any form.

Get weekly and/or daily updates delivered to your inbox. You can unsubscribe at any time and we’ll never share your details to third parties.
More information Privacy policy
Daily science news on research developments and the latest scientific innovations
The latest engineering, electronics and technology advances
The most comprehensive sci-tech news coverage on the web
This site uses cookies to assist with navigation, analyse your use of our services, collect data for ads personalisation and provide content from third parties. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.



Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.