BLUF

Despite information on COVID-19 changing regularly, most people see that authorities are being open and transparent, and—mostly—we still see high levels of trust and social cohesion.

Summary

Over the past 18 months or so, people worldwide have been required to sort information from misinformation. Evidence and public health messaging on COVID-19 is constantly changing, from the origins of the virus to modes of transmission, right through to vaccine recommendations for different age groups. To people familiar with scientific methods, this is understandable. But most people don’t have a scientific background and are left to figure things out for themselves. At the extremes are those who claim that governments, the media and law enforcement are working together to use the pandemic as a grab for power. Then, there are those who accept that COVID-19 is real but reject the strategies. But most Australians are happy to go along with government strategies in good faith. Many complain about the restrictions but ultimately trust the reasoning of our leaders and the experts. Epistemologist and philosopherEmeritus Professor Stephen Hetherington, makes the following points:
  • Sceptics argue that if we can’t prove the truth entirely, it must be rejected.
  • Disagreement over uncertainty about COVID-19 can be a good thing. However, it is not reason enough to reject the prevailing knowledge.
  • Although politicians dread labels like ‘back flipper, admitting a change of thinking can sometimes be a strength.
The recent boom in vaccination rates in NSW shows that uncertainty has not had the dampening effect on social cohesion that many feared.