While nurses and doctors treat patients on the front lines, epidemiologists and virologists who have spent careers in classrooms and laboratories have become the most reliable sources of information in an era of deep uncertainty, divergent policies and violent misinformation.
After a long period of popular reaction against experts and experts, who have sustained a series of political changes and sparked cultural wars in much of the developed world, societies besieged by coronavirus isolation and desperate for facts are turning to these experts for answers.
"During a crisis, heroes surface because many of our basic human needs are threatened, including our need for certainty, meaning and purpose, self-esteem and a sense of belonging to other people," said Elaine Kinsella, professor of psychology at the University of Limerick, Ireland, which researched the role of heroes in society.
"Heroes help to satisfy, at least in part, some of these basic human needs," he added.
The hero-scientists emerging from the coronavirus crisis rarely have the obvious charisma of political leaders, but they show deep knowledge and, at times, compassion.
In Italy, one of the most affected countries in the world, Dr. Massimo Galli, director of the department of infectious diseases at the University Hospital Luigi Sacco, in Milan, exchanged his lab coat for a suit and accepted that he “would be overexposed in the media”, In order to clarify things, he told an interview program.
In Greece, which has so far been spared a major outbreak, a large audience is tuned in when Prof. Sotirios Tsiodras goes to the country every day at 6 pm.
His delivery is flat and he depends a lot on his notes while updating the country with the latest numbers of those confirmed as sick, hospitalized or deceased. He occasionally offers practical advice, such as a solution of four teaspoons of bleach per liter of water that can be sprayed onto surfaces for disinfection.