A couple of days ago I was shocked talking to a waiter in a restaurant when he said to me that the solution to the Corona virus epidemic is to stop migrants coming into his country because, according to him, they have poor hygiene standards.
That shocking remark brought home to me the extent to which the current situation is as much one of human rights as it is of public health.
Absolutely, we need strong public health responses right now, well informed, transparently rolled out. But at the same time we have to be very vigilant for the respect of the human rights of everyone.
It’s never acceptable for instance to target people just because of their perceived nationality or ethnicity. It’s never acceptable to pick on somebody in the street and to beat them up because somebody thinks they might be a carrier of the virus.
On the other hand it is reasonable to limit some of our human rights about access to school, access to the work place, who we can meet with in the present time.
But such limitations must be proportionate to the good that they are seeking to achieve. Measures like that also need to take account of the particular situation of certain groups in our society. Old people seeking access to hospital, children whose only square meal a day comes from the school room, parents who are impacted in the workplace because of child - minding duties.
And these are just a tiny number of the human rights issues that present themselves as we combat the virus.
The Fundamental Rights Agency right now is mapping the range of human rights issues across our Member States. We’ll publish our findings in the next few weeks together with strong recommendations on how we can fight the fake news.
We can deliver for the human right to health of our people while also respecting the human rights of everyone.