Comparing the virus responses in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States shows that in order for scientific expertise to result in effective policy, rational political leadership is required. Each of these three countries is known for advanced biomedical research, yet their experiences in the COVID-19 pandemic diverged widely. Germany’s political leadership carefully followed scientific advice and organized public–private partnerships to scale up testing, resulting in relatively low infection levels. The UK and US political responses were far more erratic and less informed by scientific advice—and proved much less effective.

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