Human rights and their limitations during COVID-19 (New Zealand example)

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Author: Viktoriya Parshenko

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2023-2-157-167

Keywords: human rights and civil liberties; human rights restrictions; pandemic; COVID; public health


In December 2019 the first cases of coronavirus infection were reported. In March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic. The widespread emergency situation required a rapid response from all existing states of the world. WHO gave general recommendations and specific, more detailed methods were determined by the countries individually. The choice of technologies depended on many factors, both objective (rate of spread of the virus in certain territories, population density) and subjective (reaction of the population, material resources). This text focuses on the limits of basic human rights restrictions during a pandemic, using the approach developed in New Zealand between 2020 and 2022 as an example. In the context of international discussions, New Zealand’s approach has elicited mixed reactions, both critically negative and completely favorable, due to its rigidity and somewhat radical nature. At this point, there is no unequivocal answer to the questions raised by the critics. But it is possible to consider both the measures taken by the state and the results to which they led. The author examines in detail the various methods that New Zealand chose to counteract the spread of the new coronavirus infection (“alert level framework”, “traffic light system”, “MIQ”, “support bubble”), taking into account both quantitative and qualitative results already available in the overall global pandemic picture. Using logical and comparative analyses, the author draws attention to the fact that more stringent measures against the spread of the virus may indeed be more effective in reducing the rate of spread and the number of cases, but at the same time, they may also have a negative impact on the protection of fundamental human and civil rights and freedoms. This study highlights the importance of finding a new balance between individual rights and freedoms and the public interest in healthcare, and draws attention to the fact that only a comprehensive approach and flexible measures in the long term will allow effective combat with the spread of the virus (and possibly with other biologic/environmental phenomena) without noticeable negative interference in individual rights and freedoms.

About the author: Viktoriya Parshenko – Ph.D. Student, Theory and History of Law and State Department, North-West Institute of Management, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Citation: Parshenko V. (2023) Prava cheloveka i predely ikh ogranicheniya v period COVID-19 (primer Novoy Zelandii) [Human rights and their limitations during COVID-19 (New Zealand example)]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 157–167. (In Russian).


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