Risk, human rights and Covid-19

The management of the worldwide Covid-19 health crisis has undergone significant variations – from herd immunity in the UK to “zero Covid” policy in China – depending on the level of attention paid to the preservation of individual freedoms, but also on the various tendencies of the states to protect their population from the risk of death or to leave individuals the responsibility for their health. This paper aims to shed light on the management of health risks from the perspective of human rights. Firstly, the notion of risk as understood by economic and social sciences will be introduced and applied to the Covid-19 pandemic. Secondly, the focus will be put on the notion of risk as it used in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Finally, the implications of this risk case law on the obligations of states in the context of pandemic management will be discussed, with the aim of assessing the scope of the right to life vis-à-vis other fundamental rights in this context.