Precaution, resilience, faith, and COVID-19

Main Article Content

Ben J.M. Ale Des N.D. Hartford David H. Slater


The scene for the COVID-19 crisis was set in the decades that preceded it. These decades can be characterized by increased profusion of market thinking in the care sector and by continuous but largely ignored warnings. International bodies and national institutes repeatedly warned that a worldwide influenza pandemic was very likely in the medium term and the potential consequences would be catastrophic. In risk management theories, resilience has become accepted as a new way of dealing with risks. By “engineering-in” resilience, it is argued that it is logical to expect that a system will be better equipped to absorb, resist and bounce back from adverse events. More recently though some have viewed resilience as an alternative to relying on precautionary risk management and it has obtained a more ominous meaning, supporting the idea that such precautionary measures are unnecessary and unjustified, given the opportunity costs of committing money for events that may not happen. As a result, the risks of a pandemic were accepted, in spite of the “science”, without any additional, specific, or noticeable precautions. But in a modern democracy “science” cannot prescribe political decisions. People are often inclined not to spend money on precaution, or prevention, and are more inclined to complain only after a risk has materialized in a disaster, or crisis. These are always value judgments at best and power broking at worst. Judgments are essentially subjective and the exercise of power is the ultimate political game. This may be hard to swallow for some in the “scientific” risk profession. The COVID 19 situation is moving fast. It changes even while we are writing this paper. Since our understanding of the coronavirus behavior, will determine to a certain extent any judgment on the way the risk is being dealt with, this paper reflects our current perception.

Keywords: pandemic, safety science, risk governance

Article Details

How to Cite
ALE, Ben J.M.; HARTFORD, Des N.D.; SLATER, David H.. Precaution, resilience, faith, and COVID-19. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 8, n. 8, aug. 2020. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 feb. 2024. doi:


Aven, T. Perspectives on the nexus between good risk communication and high scientific risk analysis quality, RESS 2018;178; 290-296 (accessed 19/06/2020) (accessed 19/06/2020)
RIVM, at RIVM.NL per 17-05-2020: 9600 dead, 11000 hospitalized, 5% infected ( 19/06/2020),voor%20de%20Statistiek%20(CBS). (accessed 19/06/2020)
Gensheimer KF, Fukuda K, Brammer L, Cox N, Patriarca PA, Strikas RA. Preparing for pandemic influenza: the need for enhanced surveillance.Emerg Infect Dis. 1999;5(2);297‐299. doi:10.3201/eid0502.990219
RIVM. Nationaal Veiligheidsprofiel, Stuurgroep Nationale Veiligheid, Rijksinstituut voot Volksgezondheid en Milieu, Bilthoven, The Netherlands, 2016,
10,Mexicaanse%20griep%20kostte%20340%20miljoen,de%20Tweede%20Kamer%20heeft%20gestuurd (accessed 15/06/2020)
Ale BJM, Hartford DND, Slater DH Resilience or Faith, in Piero Baraldi, Francesco Di Maio and Enrico Zio (Eds) Proceedings of the 30th European Safety and Reliability Conference and the 15th Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Management Conference. Published by Research Publishing, Singapore 2020,; ISBN: 981-973-0000-00-0 : doi: 10.3850/981-973-0000-00-0, (accessed 28/06/2020)
Jongejan RB, Helsloot I, Beerens RJ, Vrijling JK. How prepared is prepared enough? Disasters;2011;35 (1);130–142
Meadows DH, Meadows DL, Randers J, Behrens III W,. The Limits to Growth; A Report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind: Universe Books, New Your, 1972, ISBN 0876631650
World Economic Forum, Global Risks Part 2: Risks in Focus: 2.3 City Limits: The Risks of Rapid and Unplanned Urbanization in Developing Countries, 2015; (accessed 28/06/2020)
Helsloot, I., Schmidt, A. The intractable citizen and the single-minded risk expert: Eur. J. Risk Regul.; 2012;3; 305-312
Ale BJM., Hartford DND, Slater DH The practical value of life: priceless or a CBA calculation?: Medical Research Archives; 2018; 6(3) ISSN: 2375-1924
Ale BJM, Hartford DND, Slater DH Is there a statistical value of a life: Chemical Engineering Transactions;2019;77;637-642; ISBN 978-88-95608-72-3 (accessed 19/06/2020)
Machiavelli, N. (1513-1515) Il Principe. (accessed 19/06/2020)
Otway H, Thomas K, Reflections on Risk: Perception and Policy: Risk Analysis 2006;2(2);69–82