To comply with Article 11 of the Charter, States Parties must demonstrate their ability to cope with infectious diseases, such as arrangements for reporting and notifying diseases and by taking all the necessary emergency measures in case of epidemics. The latter would include adequate implementation of the measures applied in the current crisis: measures to limit the spread of virus in the population (physical distancing and self-isolation, provision of surgical masks, disinfectant, etc.) and measures to treat the ill (sufficient number of hospital beds, including intensive care units and equipment and rapid deployment of sufficient numbers of medical personnel while ensuring that their working conditions are healthy and safe).

States must operate widely accessible immunisation programmes. They must maintain high coverage rates not only to reduce the incidence of these diseases, but also to neutralise the reservoir of virus and thus achieve the goals set by WHO to eradicate a range of infectious diseases. Vaccine research should be promoted, adequately funded and efficiently coordinated across public and private actors.

Access to health care must be ensured to everyone without discrimination. Groups at particularly high risk such as older persons, homelessness, the poor, those living in institutions must be adequately protected by the measures put in place. This implies that health equity as defined by the WHO should be the goal: absence of avoidable, unfair, or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically or by other means of stratification. Ideally everyone should have a fair opportunity to attain their full health potential and no one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential.

For more on Article 11 of the Charter and its interpretation by the European Committee of Social Rights, see the Digest of the case law. 

Department of Social Rights

Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law
Council of Europe
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F – 67075 Strasbourg Cedex

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