The Right to Health in Times of Pandemic: What Can We Learn from the UK's Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak?

Lisa Montel*, Anuj Kapilashrami, Michel P Coleman, Claudia Allemani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


The UK's response to COVID-19 has been widely criticized by scientists and the public. According to EuroMOMO, a European mortality monitoring initiative, the excess mortality that may be attributable to COVID-19 in England is one of the highest in Europe, second only to Spain. While critiqued from a public health perspective, much less attention is given to the implications of the pandemic outbreak for the right to health as defined under international human rights law and ratified by member states. Using the UK as a case study, we examine critically the extent to which the government's response to COVID-19 complied with the legal framework of the right to health. We review further key states' obligations on the right to health and assess its suitability in times of pandemic. Finally, we offer some recommendations for an update of the right to health. This paper adds to the body of literature on the right to health and human rights based-approaches to health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-242
Number of pages16
JournalHealth and Human Rights Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2020

Structured keywords

  • Covid19
  • LAW Centre for Health Law and Society
  • LAW Human Rights Implementation Centre


  • COVID-19/mortality
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Europe
  • Health Personnel
  • Human Rights/legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Public Health
  • Right to Health
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United Kingdom
  • Vulnerable Populations


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