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Solidarity is for other people: identifying derelictions of solidarity in responses to COVID-19
  1. Peter West-Oram
  1. Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton BN19PX, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peter West-Oram, Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton BN19PX, UK; P.West-Oram{at}


The role and importance of solidarity for effective health provision is the subject of lengthy and heated debate which has been thrown into even sharper relief by the COVID-19 pandemic. In various ways, and by various authorities we have all been asked, even instructed, to engage in solidarity with one another in order to collectively respond to the current crisis. Under normal circumstances, individuals can engage in solidarity with their compatriots in the context of public health provision in a number of ways, including paying taxes which fund welfare state initiatives, and avoiding others when ill. While there has been significant engagement in solidarity worldwide, there have also been high profile examples of refusals and failures to engage in solidarity, both by individual agents, and governments. In this paper I examine the consequence of these failures with reference to the actions of the current British government, which has failed to deliver an effective response to the crisis. This failure has effectively devolved responsibility for responding to the crisis to people who are simultaneously more vulnerable to infection, and less able to do anything about it. I argue that such responses represent mismanagement of a public health crisis, and a rejection of important democratic and egalitarian norms and values.

  • public health ethics
  • public policy
  • allocation of health care resources
  • political philosophy
  • right to healthcare

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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  • Contributors PW-O is the sole author of this submission. PW-O wrote and conducted the research.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval As a purely theoretical paper which comments on the implications of public actions by the government, it includes no data from research that would be subject to ethical review.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement There are no data in this work.

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