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COVID-19: science must not be the boy who cried wolf
  1. Philip Lewis,
  2. Thomas C Erren
  1. Institute and Policlinic for Occupational Medicine, Environmental Medicine and Prevention Research, University Hospital of Cologne, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Philip Lewis, Institute and Policlinic for Occupational Medicine, Environmental Medicine and Prevention Research, University Hospital of Cologne, Kerpener Str. 62, 50969 Cologne, Germany; philip.lewis{at}uk-koeln.de

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Dear Editor,

COVID-19 mitigation and suppression strategies like physical distancing severely affect livelihoods. Jobs, education, healthcare and more continue to be disrupted or lost. ‘Is all this necessary?’ numerous people ask as some countries are already loosening isolation measures while others proceeded with less strict measures in the first instance. Moreover, researchers identify a lack of reliable data.1 If observable effects of SARS-CoV-2 are not as severe as many fear (at least in some places), may trust and compliance with strategies in future crises be eroded?

Importantly, Rose’s ‘prevention paradox’ comes into play. Benefits of measures which may not be readily noticeable by individuals may make huge differences when combatting COVID-19 in populations.2 Thus, science must bring home to the public that it is not crying wolf here: continuing uncertainty in forecasts mean that, for now at least, extensive mitigation and suppression strategies and potentially repeated cycles of these measures are/will be necessary.

Conceivably, only today’s drastic measures disallow the sizeable rest of the iceberg to be observed. The COVID-19 situations in Lombardy and New York convey that this crisis is unique.

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Footnotes

  • Contributors PL and TCE contributed equally.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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