07 April 2020

Video blog Michael O'Flaherty: COVID-19

Michael O'Flaherty talks in his vlog about the human rights aspects in the context of the Coronavirus epidemic and introduces FRA's new report.

On 8 April, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights publishes the first of what will be a monthly series of reports on COVID-19 and Fundamental Rights.

Drawing on data from across the 27 EU Member States, we look at the fundamental rights implications of public health responses and all of the other issues that arise in the context of the pandemic.

We focus on 4 areas in this first report. The first is the restrictions on daily life, the stuff we experience now every minute of every day. But what we chart from our data across the 27 are the different ways these restrictions impact in different places. For instance, the inability for children to go to school puts a reliance on distance learning. But this only works in some places whereas others just don’t have the capacity.

The second section of the report looks at the impact of public health measures on particularly vulnerable groups.

The third of the 4 sections of this report looks at issues of xenophobia and hate speech. A problem we saw in February and into early March in a number of places across the EU.

And the fourth and final section looks at how we respect privacy and freedom of expression rights in the context of the need to track the virus on the one hand and to observe proper behaviour on social media on the other.

Now as we go forward, we can already draw some conclusions.

The first is to keep in mind how much we already know about how to respect human rights in a time like this. We have learned it from experience with HIV AIDS and Ebola. We have learned, for instance, that it is not a zero sum game that public health responses and human rights are not at odds with each other. Rather, when public health responses respect human rights, they do a better job of public health.

And finally, we must always keep in mind the need to persistently, consistently test public health restrictions so that they pass the human rights tests of necessity, proportionality and respect for the principle of non-discrimination.