Nuclear war, public health, the COVID-19 epidemic: lessons for prevention, preparation, mitigation, and education

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  • Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester


The current COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on the vulnerability of the human race in the face of communicable disease. But the pandemic also serves as a wake-up call to the cataclysmic impact that would befall the world if nuclear weapons were ever to be used again. Overwhelming pressure on health-services, considerable disruption to normal life, difficult choices regarding suspension of civil liberties, how to protect key workers and ensure society continues to function – these would all be magnified many times over in the event of a nuclear explosion. Thus, in addition to refocusing attention on the prevention and mitigation of global pandemics, the lessons of the current crisis are much more wide-ranging, and should lead to a renewal of public education, interest, and activism in reducing nuclear dangers.

Bibliographic note

Funding Information: Andrew Futter receives funding from the European Research Council (ERC). Peter Chilton and Richard Lilford receive funding from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) West Midlands. Lilford receives additional funding from other NIHR grants and the Medical Research Council, UK. Views expressed here are not necessarily those of any funder, the NHS, or the Department of Health and Social Care.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-276
JournalBulletin of Atomic Scientists
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2020


  • COVID-19, nuclear risk, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, public health