Ethical considerations in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

Policy Briefing

Published 17/03/2020

Ethical considerations in responding to the COVID 19 pandemic Page 01
This rapid policy briefing outlines ethical principles that must be considered when developing public health measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Government has indicated a number of further public health measures may be needed in order to manage the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. The current situation (as of 17 March 2020) is summarised in the annex, including an overview of the Government’s action plan of ‘contain, delay, research and mitigate’.

The following review of ethical considerations draws on the findings of a number of in-depth inquiries conducted by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, including those concerned with public health, solidarity, and research in global health emergencies. For further commentary on the ethical considerations associated with research into COVID-19, see the Nuffield Council blog The ethical imperative of preparedness.