COVID Policy: It’s All About Trust

By Shlomo Maital    

Trust, Mutual Responsibility

  CNN’s Fareed Zakaria brings incisive intelligent insight to world events.  Today, he cited an important study published in the British medical journal The Lancet.  This is a huge study, biggest of its kind, that studied COVID-19 infection and fatality rates across 177 countries.*   I looked it up.

 Here are the key findings:

 *    “Trust in government, trust in one another:  Measures of trust in the government and interpersonal trust, as well as less government corruption, had larger, statistically significant associations with lower standardized infection rates.”

*   “Willingness to be vaccinated:  High levels of government and interpersonal trust, as well as less government corruption, were also associated with higher COVID-19 vaccine coverage among middle-income and high-income countries where vaccine availability was more widespread, and lower corruption was associated with greater reductions in morbidity.”

     This is not just  a statistical correlation.   Trust SAVES LIVES.   

*    “If these modelled associations were to be causal, an increase in trust of governments such that all countries had societies that attained at least the amount of trust in government or interpersonal trust measured in Denmark, which is in the 75th percentile across these spectrums, might have reduced global infections by 12·9%  for government trust and 40·3% for interpersonal trust.”   

       Take a closer look at that last italicized number.  40.3%   If we all trusted in our government as the Danes do, and trusted in one another as the Danes do, global infections would have been 40 per cent less. 

    There have been over 400 million COVID-19 infections, and 5.8 million deaths, globally.  Had we trusted one another, helped one another, believed in one another, and trusted our government and what it told us —  perhaps more than two million deaths could have been prevented.  We would have worn masks, isolated socially, and got vaccinated. 

    Corrupt, incompetent governments are not only contemptible.  They kill.  They cost lives.  We cannot afford them.  When we need them, need public heath policies, need public spirited people – we lack them.   And we just cannot afford it.

     We have to restore a sense of responsibility toward one another.  We have to repair the adverse selection model, that funnels corrupt untruthful people into government and repels capable people of good will.  We just cannot afford to do otherwise.   What we have now is costing lives.


 Source:  Pandemic preparedness and COVID-19: an exploratory analysis of infection and fatality rates, and contextual factors associated with preparedness in 177 countries, from Jan 1, 2020, to Sept 30, 2021, The Lancet,  2022,