One of the many problems posed by the collective effort to tackle COVID-19 is non-compliance with restrictions. Some people would like to obey restrictions but cannot due to their job or other life circumstances; others are not good at following rules that restrict their liberty, even if the potential consequences of doing so are repeatedly made very clear to them. Among this group are a minority who simply do not care about the consequences of their actions. But many others fail to accurately perceive the harms that they might be causing. One of the main reasons for this is that the harms done by transmitting COVID-19 to someone else are morally distant from the agent, particularly in cases where infection is asymptomatic. In this paper, I describe seven different aspects of moral distance in the context of COVID-19, explore how they affect (lack of) motivation to obey restrictions, and suggest several ways in which such moral distance can be reduced — primarily through enhanced-contact tracing that makes it clear to individuals and the public precisely who they could be harming and how.
- public health ethics
- social aspects
- public policy
Data availability statement
There are no data in this work.
This article is made freely available for personal 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.https://bmj.com/coronavirus/usage
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
Contributors DS is the sole author.
Funding The author has 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.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.