GENEVA (26 March 2020) – The COVID-19 crisis cannot be solved with public health and emergency measures only; all other human rights must be addressed too, UN human rights experts* said today.
“Everyone, without exception, has the right to life-saving interventions and this responsibility lies with the government. The scarcity of resources or the use of public or private insurance schemes should never be a justification to discriminate against certain groups of patients,” the experts said. “Everybody has the right to health.
“People with disabilities, older persons, minority communities, indigenous peoples, internally displaced people, people affected by extreme poverty and living in overcrowded settings, people who live in residential institutions, people in detention, homeless people, migrants and refugees, people who use drugs, LGBT and gender diverse persons – these and other groups need to receive support from governments.
“Advances in biomedical sciences are very important to realize the right to health. But equally important are all human rights. The principles of non-discrimination, participation, empowerment and accountability need to be applied to all health-related policies.”
The UN experts supported the measures recommended by the WHO to defeat the pandemic. They called on States to act with determination to provide the needed resources to all sectors of public health systems – from prevention and detection to treatment and recovery.
“But addressing this crisis is more than that. States must take additional social protection measures so that their support reaches those who are at most risk of being disproportionately affected by the crisis,” they stressed.
“That includes women, who are already at a disadvantaged socio-economic position, bear an even heavier care burden, and live with a heightened risk of gender-based violence.”
The group of experts expressed their gratitude and admiration to health workers around the world who heroically battle the outbreak. “They face huge workloads, risk their own lives and are forced to face painful ethical dilemmas when resources are too scarce. Healthcare workers need to have all possible support from States, business, media and the public at large.
“COVID-19 is a serious global challenge,” the experts said. “But it is also a wake-up call for the revitalization of universal human rights principles. These principles and trust in scientific knowledge must prevail over the spread of fake news, prejudice, discrimination, inequalities and violence.
“We all together face this unprecedented challenge. The business sector in particular continues to have human rights responsibilities in this crisis. Only with concerted multilateral efforts, solidarity and mutual trust, will we defeat the pandemic while becoming more resilient, mature and united.
“When the vaccine for COVID-19 comes, it should be provided without discrimination. Meanwhile, as it is still to come, the human rights-based approach is already known as another effective pathway in the prevention of major public health threats,” the experts concluded.