The Vice Chancellor of The University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, established a UWI COVID-19 Task Force on February 28, 2020 (www.uwi.edu/covid19). The Task Force aims “to leverage The University’s knowledge and experts to assist the Caribbean in its readiness and response to the virus outbreak, mindful that the region’s best defence is a coordinated and collaborative approach”. The UWI COVID-19 Task Force has adopted the collaborative model pioneered by The UWI Zika Task Force in 2016; its it collaborates closely with regional health agencies, disaster & emergency management agencies, trade bodies, national health and security ministries, and Caribbean communities to tackle a viral pandemic head-on. This publication is part of the attempt to provide accurate and reliable information in this spirit of partnership. The current Task Force takes account of global development and practices in its work and emphasizes the need to share best practices and lessons learned to contribute to the region’s recovery from the crisis.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and any future pandemics calls us to live and be, in ways that safeguard the health and well-being of all, while acting in ways to encourage the flourishing of all – saving lives, securing livelihoods. We are called to keep human and economic health at the forefront of all our decisions during the pandemic without making the kind of trade off that damages the one or the other. Political, business, public health, and other decision-makers are tasked with contributing innovative and equitable solutions to reduce and share the burdens of the public health crisis. The hope is to encourage ethical commitment and action among such persons, who bear different ethical burdens than the ordinary citizen, particularly in their responsibility to make rules and impose policies that affect the lives of entire nations and peoples.
There is an ethical paradox inherent in the struggle with COVID-19, where the choice to save lives is pitted against that of saving livelihoods. There may well be a false dichotomy involved in such a bald framing as we need to commit to protecting people’s lives, limiting the spread of the virus, in order to have a healthy population to maintain economic growth. How this is done is the key question and the ideas in this booklet bear some consideration in that regard.
This brief, easy-to-read booklet provides some ethical principles on which government and other public officials, in particular, can base their responses in a time of pandemic. The booklet is divided into four parts, including an introduction with subsequent sections exploring relevant ethical principles. Real and adapted case studies will be presented to further illustrate the application of key principles in what are often morally complex circumstances that cry out for careful judgement based on a principled approach. An extensive bibliography is included for further reading and consultation.