Many countries had lockdowns during Covid.

It seemed that most scientists and health organizations supported them, and therefore, many government officials as well.

There were some contradictory figures, like the Great Barrington Declaration, or Sweden’s policy of not locking down as strictly.

Although it seems reasonable to consider restricting interpersonal contact would reduce transmission of a disease, my question is about the rational, genuinely academic, scientific, philosophical, and theoretical perspectives amongst experts, on the extent to which lockdowns are necessary, advisable or good.

Some questions a non-expert can think about:

  • if some people are at risk, why wouldn’t we have special measures to keep those people protected and isolated, while offering them special support and assistance, instead of forcing everybody to isolate?
  • Isn’t it your inherent right to risk contracting a disease? I believe there are some who may have preferred to go on living their life like normal even if they may get sick or even die. From a highly philosophical angle, I do believe it’s completely your right to take a risk, but it’s usually not the government’s right to restrict freedom of movement or activity so heavily (in democratic countries).
  • There could be ethical considerations about harming other people by possibly exposing them to a virus. However, how consistently is such a principle upheld, in society? Is it illegal to have sex without proving you don’t have AIDS or an STD? Is it illegal to give someone unhealthy food, or second hand smoke exposure?

I am thinking about how the lockdown was seen as a utilitarian necessity by governments to minimize death, which could have had even more devastating effects on societies, than that of economic downturn, less time in school, and social isolation. That said, it still opens the question if that is actually legal. So, amongst experts, is it considered standard, or uncertain, if lockdowns are overall the better choice, considering other approaches, and negative effects that lockdowns have? And second, even if it is seen as better in outcome, to what extent can the government order businesses to close down?

  • 8
    With regard to Isn’t it your inherent right to risk contracting a disease? Where would you ever get an idea like that? It is not your inherent right to drive 100 mph or higher through a school zone. It is not your inherent right to be a public risk to health and safety. VTC as this question is obviously not being asked in good faith. Dec 19, 2022 at 13:21
  • 10
    With regard to Is it illegal to give someone unhealthy food? Yes, it is. Restaurants, grocery stores, food distribution centers, butcher shops, etc. have been closed for this very reason. Sometimes this results not only in closures, but also fiscal penalties, and sometimes people going to jail. You do not have the right to give someone foods that cause known severe and acute diseases. Dec 19, 2022 at 13:25
  • 5
    This question needs rewritten. You could certainly ask for evidence of the opinions of a particular group about a political topic (although it is probably not on topic in a politics forum to ask e.g. what scientists think about the scientific merits of lockdown). But you make a lot of unproven claims: how exactly do you propose to isolate millions of vulnerable people? Don't societies take actions to prevent other diseases (currently in the UK millions of farmed birds are being kept indoors to prevent bird flu)? And haven't you heard of laws restricting smoking?
    – Stuart F
    Dec 19, 2022 at 14:52
  • 4
    "Isn’t it your inherent right to risk contracting a disease?" You can contract all the diseases you want, the problem is the people you kill when you pass it on. Dec 19, 2022 at 18:45
  • 4
    @DaveGremlin Not to mention the people who will have to do extra work and risk their own infection caring for you. Dec 19, 2022 at 20:14

2 Answers 2


That said, it still opens the question if that is actually legal.

Regarding that specific question of your post, the general answer is "yes." It is understood that governments can enact quarantine measures of varying severity, depending on the needs at the time. The principle comes from a time when medical science was less developed, and an epidemic outbreak could be devastating. Individual countries may pass constitutions or laws to restrict the ability of their governments to do so.

There are declarations in international principles which might be interpreted to limit lockdowns, e.g. articles 12, 13, 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But 13(2) was never interpreted as a ban on prison systems, for instance.

  • It's even more interesting - I remember one international declaration that while protecting freedoms was allowing some exceptions like dealing with epidemic, mental illness or... vagrancy.
    – Shadow1024
    Dec 19, 2022 at 16:32
  • @Shadow1024, have you considered the draft in many countries? Democracies have safeguards for their people, but that is not a global standard.
    – o.m.
    Dec 19, 2022 at 17:38

To the general question then the answer is definitely yes. E.g. for meningitis many hospitals have wards to lockdown, and the strategy here is proven and accepted. Also phone services to identify people that has been with contact with patient zero etc.

Covid was ofcourse special because it was too spread to be able to lockdown.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .