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The situation has become familiar with the coronavirus, and in particular with the controversy over the use of chloroquine: everyone has an opinion and groups are being formed in favor or against it. Yet regularly, people are being called to order by others who demand that only experts should be allowed to talk on issues relating to the management of the epidemy. The message seems to have been heard: for the past three weeks, doctors have been massively present on television sets. The country has become a large proxy medical consultation room. But the question remains: faced with a complex and unprecedented situation such as the coronavirus, who has the right to speak out? To what extent can experts be trusted? More importantly, how can the decision-maker work with them?
The coronavirus, which is currently causing a major international crisis, is one of those unprecedented events that are taking us by surprise by making all the forecasters lie who, only three months ago for the New Year, were telling us what 2020 would be like. Should we be afraid of the virus? This is the question that each of us is asking, torn between the worry of not taking seriously what could turn out to be the epidemic of the Century and the fear of giving in to panic if its impact proves to be only modest, as Dr. Eric Caumes, head of the infectious diseases department at the French Hospital Pitie-Salpetriere, who recently declared: “If you are not afraid of the flu (up to 10.000 deaths/year in France), why are you afraid of the coronavirus?” This seems to make sense, and yet the comparison is not legitimate, because it ignores a very important distinction, that between risk and uncertainty, which a decision-maker must absolutely understand.