COVID-19 and Human Rights | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 05, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:15 AM, May 05, 2020

COVID-19 and Human Rights

While countries around the world work to contain and limit the spread of COVID-19, certain human rights and allowable derogations become relevant. While freedom of movement is of foremost importance in discussions about the lockdowns and quarantine measures, other human-rights concerns also arise.

For example, freedom of expression and right to critical information is a pertinent right. The government is responsible for providing necessary information for the protection and promotion of rights including right to health. It must ensure the publication of up-to-date and accurate information on the disease. Regular press briefings, publication of health guidelines etc. must be ensured to ensure right to health.

In case of infectious diseases, people who live in closer proximity to others in confined spaces are more vulnerable than the rest. Groups such as prisoners, residential facilities for people with disabilities, nursing institutions for the elderly, refugees living in camps, slum-dwellers, homeless people etc. are all more likely to both contract and spread the disease. Government and other concerned authorities must take appropriate action to reduce the risk in these places.

Access to potable water is also an essential corollary to preventive measures and infection containment. Sanitation is crucial in avoiding the spread of the virus: this is made difficult when people do not have access to safe water. Lack of potable water and sanitation at home, school, or in healthcare settings not only make preventative measures difficult, rather, places that do not have adequate sanitation and water may be a locus for the spread of the disease. The International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to which Bangladesh is a signatory states that governments should create conditions that "would assure all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness." 

The COVID-19 outbreak can possibly have a greater adverse impact on women and girls. The current crisis is resulting in an overloaded health system and shortage of medical supplies. This could obstruct women's access to contraception and pre- and post-natal and birth care. Furthermore, a significant portion of working women are employed in informal labour without job security. The lockdown deprives a huge portion of these women from their source of income. Protection must also be extended to other vulnerable and marginalised groups and discrimination in healthcare access must be prevented.

 Compiled by Law Desk.


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