Skip to content

“A very practical timing”, political communication on the way out of the crisis irritates scientists

Barely rid of the mask outdoors, Olivier Véran is already announcing the end of its wearing indoors. Better, the vaccine pass could be lifted before its deadline! On Wednesday evening, the Minister of Health announced on BFMTV that “the worst is behind us”, a well-known little music, heard at every wave.

But the novelty is that the peak of hospitalizations of the Omicron wave has not passed, and that the minister’s optimistic outlook is not linked to quantified objectives. A speech in complete reverse of the very cautious calls for caution from doctors, and clearly out of step with the injunction to recall the anti-Covid vaccine two weeks ago, during the vote on the vaccine pass. How to explain, after two years of epidemic, that such an inconsistency in the speeches remains? 20 minutes launched the decryption operation.

Allow the French to breathe

“The scientific community is not pessimistic”, proclaims infectious disease specialist Benjamin Davido to 20 minutes. Because even if “being informed reassures” for Stéphanie Lukasik, the avalanche of bad figures given by the doctors on the sets makes them look like birds of bad omen. This is evidenced by Professor Salomon’s gloomy announcements every day during the first confinement. Since then, other experts have become accustomed to TV sets, sometimes advocating everything and its opposite in epidemic matters, taking away the palm of the jacket reversal from politicians. Nevertheless, the most optimistic speeches have been demolished by the reality of the Omicron wave.

And that’s how we end up with more than 300,000 cases and 200 deaths a day, and morale at the bottom of the socks. Benjamin Davido notes a “disappointment, because despite the vaccination we are in a wave with deaths”. The Covid-19 referent at the Raymond Poincarré hospital in Garches understands the need to have a positive discourse in “a calendar that encourages people to please the French”, because “after two years the Covid is a running-gag” a bit sad. “If we tell the French that we will not be out of the crisis before 2025, you will have a wave of suicides, a revolution”, predicts Alexandre Eyries, teacher-researcher in political communication at the University of Burgundy. While the hope of a near horizon allows “to fix the attention of stressed people”. A “ventilation” in psychological terms, “like when one distracts the attention of a hostage taker” pictures the academic.

A “campaign promise”

But the date announced for the end of wearing the mask is not entirely insignificant. “It’s still a very practical timing” with the presidential election, ironically doctor Michael Rochoy. “To speak of spring is to turn to the elections”, confirms Alexandre Eyries, and this makes it possible to register the entry into the campaign of the president in the exit from the crisis. The two doctors interviewed by 20 minutes do not hide their skepticism about the notion of “spring”, which nevertheless extends over three months, which leaves plenty of time to adapt the measure to the epidemic reality.

“To win a presidential campaign, it is better to offer positive things to citizens. And obviously, the way out of the crisis can be part of it, ”says Stéphanie Lukasik, teacher-researcher in information and communication sciences at the University of Lorraine. Thus, the horizon of the end of the wearing of the mask and the vaccination pass, but also the future reopening of the discotheques, hold “more of a promise of campaign than of scientific communication”, points out Benjamin Davido. Especially since the government can align itself with the popular discourse among all of its opponents, supporters of fewer restrictions. Thus, Michael Rochoy regrets the absence of “a candidate with a real scientific background who wants more prevention”.

The strategy without the numbers

The other point that makes the two doctors wince is the absence of a numerical indicator linked to the end of wearing the mask. Remember. In October, as the beginnings of the fifth wave became perceptible, the masks were back in schools as soon as the incidence rate of 50 exceeded at the level of the department. In some territories, it was even taken off before it was put back on again, so much the indicator was a cleaver. Since then, the numbers have soared, and restrictions are imposed and lifted without being correlated to an indicator.

“We need quantified objectives to say what is acceptable”, insists Michael Rochoy. “Without a goal, everything is a success,” he condemns. The doctor is thus worried about the “opacity” of the decisions, resulting from “health defense advice whose content is secret”. With an unprecedented number of contaminations and “more hospitalized than in March 2020, we are told that the game is won”, is surprised Benjamin Davido. The infectiologist also notes that until now, the government had always “favoured the worst-case scenario” in its forecasts and decisions.

But above all, political speech being in essence “presented as answers”, with interlocutors “accustomed to simplifying the message” in a “short time”, it “is incompatible with the long scientific time, necessary for reflection”, as Stéphanie Lukasik explains. Thus, all the nuances brought by the doctors, on the gap between epidemic wave and hospital wave, on the examples of India or the United Kingdom, will never mark as much as the affirmation of Olivier Véran according to which “the worse is behind us”. Which is not entirely false, admits Michael Rochoy, if we take into account “that we will not have 130,000 deaths again” in two years. Here is at least a point of agreement between the two words.

Source: 20minutes

Share this article:
globalhappenings news.jpg
most popular