Without equity, we cannot end COVID-19, HIV, or any other pandemic – Peter Sands
Human rights play an important role in shaping the pandemic response for the health of public, thereby creating a broader impact on the lives of people as well as their livelihood. Responses which are shaped by and respect the human rights, end with better outcomes in beating this pandemic while ensuring healthcare is accessible and available to everyone in terms of human dignity. There is a need to understand the issues of who suffers the most, why and how it is addressed. In this catastrophe it is very important to take care of one’s health as well as their human rights.
AT THE FRONTLINE WITHIN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19
There are broadly two demarcations at the frontline in the fight against COVID-19:
1. Right to life, and
2. Duty to protect life.
We are combating COVID-19 to protect the lives of all human beings. Invoking the right to life reminds us that all States have a duty to protect human life, including the need of addressing the general conditions in society that give rise to direct threats to life. The Constitution of India, guarantees us this Fundamental Right despite the state making efforts to provide an all-encompassing infrastructure to counter the pandemic.
The right to health and access to health care facilities is inherently enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. COVID-19 seems to be testing to the limit States’ ability to protect the right to health. Every person is entitled to the enjoyment of the very best attainable standard of health conducive to living a life in dignity. Everyone, no matter their social or economic status, should have access to proper health care. Historic underinvestment in health systems has weakened the power to reply to the present pandemic. COVID-19 is emphasizing the need of universal health coverage (UHC) as an essential part of life.
States with strong and resilient healthcare systems are better equipped to reply to crises. Health-care systems all around the world are being stretched, with some at risk of collapse. UHC promotes strong and resilient health systems, reaching those that are vulnerable and promoting pandemic preparedness and prevention. SDG 3 includes a target of achieving UHC. Universal, affordable, health-care systems assisting in combating the pandemic by ensuring access for everyone, without discrimination, to basic measures that contain the spread of the virus. This includes testing, specialist look after the foremost vulnerable, medical care for those in need and vaccination, when available, no matter ability to pay. In response to the pandemic, some countries have extended health cover to everyone in their country; others have reached agreements with private sector health-care providers to form their facilities available to the pandemic response.
The central challenge is the freedom of movement and liberty of an individual. Controlling the virus, and protecting the proper to life, means breaking the chain of infection: wherein people must stop moving and interacting with one another. The most common public health measure taken by States against COVID-19 has been restricting freedom of movement: the lockdown or stay-at-home instruction. This measure may be a practical and necessary method to prevent virus transmission, prevent health-care services becoming overwhelmed, and thus save lives. However, the impact of lockdowns on jobs, livelihoods, access to services, including health care, food, water, education and social services, safety reception, adequate standards of living and family life can be severe. As the world is discovering, freedom of movement may be a crucial right that facilitates the enjoyment of the many other rights.
While law of nations permits certain restrictions on freedom of movement, including for reasons of security and national emergency like health emergencies, restrictions on free movement should be strictly necessary for that purpose, proportionate and non-discriminatory. The availability of effective and generalized testing and tracing, and targeted quarantine measures, can mitigate the necessity for more indiscriminate restrictions.
It is important that each actor (state and non-state), especially the governments, make sure that international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law and standards are at the center of all COVID-19 responses. The United Nations system, including OHCHR and many special rapporteurs, has produced advice and guidance for this purpose.
It is suggested to:
1.Use maximum available resources at national and international levels to ensure availability, accessibility and quality of health care as a human right to all without discrimination, including for conditions aside from COVID-19 infection; and make sure that the proper to life is protected throughout.
2.Ensure that stimulus packages and other responses to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic are people-centered and adequately support groups most suffering from the loss of their livelihoods, such as informal and independent workers without access to unemployment benefits, and more generally people and groups without access to social safety nets.
3.Ensure income security and targeted supplementary benefit for the foremost marginalized or vulnerable.
4.Ensure availability of food, water and sanitation, and adequate housing.
5.Ensure that national and native response along with recovery plans to identify and take targeted measures to deal with the disproportionate impact of the virus on certain groups and individuals, including migrants, displaced persons and refugees, people living in poverty, those without access to water and sanitation or adequate housing, persons with disabilities, women, older persons, LGBTI people, children, and people in detention or institutions