Update: Human Rights During the COVID-19 Response

Governments should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by prioritizing the right to health for all and respect for human rights. In this video, Human Rights Watch staff discuss key human rights dimensions of the pandemic and make recommendations to governments.


Lena Simet
Senior Researcher on Poverty and Inequality
New York City, USA

Workers in low-wage and precarious jobs, particularly women, are among the most vulnerable to the economic fallout of COVID-19, and economic rescue plans should make them a priority. In the US, despite large relief packages, millions of low-wage workers will remain without social protection.

Carlos Rios-Espinosa
Senior Researcher and Advocate, Disability Rights
Mexico City, Mexico

Some people’s disabilities may place them at higher risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. For those who are locked away in institutions, the risks are even higher. Governments can protect the rights of people with disabilities by consulting with us people with disabilities regularly to make sure policies do not discriminate and meet our needs.

Tara Sepehri Far
Iran Researcher
Middle East and North Africa Division
Washington, D.C.

Infectious diseases can spread quickly in places of detention, like prisons.  
Authorities should consider reducing prison populations by supervised or early release of some prisoners. Some countries have begun to do this. Authorities should also ensure prisoners are screened for COVID-19 and have access to health care.

Carine Dikiefu Banona
Junior Researcher, Africa Division
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we had nearly two years of a rather chaotic response to a deadly Ebola outbreak. Distrust and suspicion were so high within communities that violence broke out against those who were deployed to help: the health workers. Authorities should use effective communication and community engagement in their plan to contain COVID-19. 

Nicole Austin-Hillery 
Executive Director, US Program
Washington, D.C.

The US government response to the COVID-19 crisis reveals severe problems in the immigration system. Under the “Remain in Mexico” program, asylum seekers are in Mexican border towns, staying in unhygienic camps  where they are at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. Government officials can ill afford to continue down this destructive path.
Tamara Taraciuk Broner
Deputy Director, Americas Division
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Governments have an obligation to protect health workers who are working tirelessly on the frontlines. In Venezuela, where the health system collapsed before COVID-19, doctors don’t have access to water to wash their hands. Instead of protecting them, authorities are harassing and detaining those who speak up.