Ethical considerations in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

Policy Briefing

Published 17/03/2020

Ethical considerations in responding to the COVID 19 pandemic Page 01
This rapid policy briefing outlines ethical principles that must be considered when developing public health measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Public health measures need to take into account the following ethical principles:

  • Interventions should be evidence-based and proportionate. The aim(s) of the interventions being implemented, and the science, values and judgments underpinning those interventions, should be clearly communicated to the public.
  • Coercion and intrusion into people’s lives should be the minimum possible consistent with achieving the aim sought.
  • People should be treated as moral equals, worthy of respect. While individuals may be asked to make sacrifices for the public good, the respect due to individuals should never be forgotten in the way in which interventions such as quarantine and self-isolation are implemented.
  • Solidarity is crucial: at the international level, between governments; in support from the state for those bearing the costs of interventions; by businesses in how they exercise their corporate social responsibility; and at the individual level in the way we all respond to the outbreak in day-to-day life.