The Pandemic and Democratic Values

Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

All of us have been living in the pandemic conditions for more than a year now but the death count and the amount of people becoming ill and hospitalized doesn't seem to drop significantly globally although on some localities there are examples of massive spikes and declines mostly directly related to changes in regulations or the lack of thereof but there are some countries that relatively have successfully tackled the Corona virus problem and people's lives have returned relatively to normal and people are enjoying freedoms they lacked before and we will analyse what kind of methods and factors have led to such outcomes and how some democracies had difficult choices to make when it comes to tackling the Corona Virus problem especially when democratic values are in question. Democratic values that were in question due to the pandemic were people's freedoms of movement, rights to privacy, right to worship and the right to publicly gather,

All these democratic values were in question because these democratic values made it difficult to tackle the pandemic and therefore democracies had to make difficult choices about how to go about it. As a Politics and governance student I believe I will have an interesting take on the matter and add some interesting points to the subject matter.

Firstly, we have to identify what kind of methods were used in these countries that achieved relative success when it comes to tackling the pandemic. So what countries are considered Covid 19 success stories? Good examples of these successes are New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, China (although it is questionable how much can you believe data from China) and South- Korea. Although most of the successes are indeed democratic societies but these countries were successful not necessarily because they were democratic states but the more the society or government was willing to restrict the democratic values (when it comes values that were needed to restrict in order to tackle the pandemic) the more the country was successful in tackling the pandemic although at what cost. An idea is circulating in the media that democratic societies are more successful in tackling the pandemic but in reality, it is not because these states are democratic that they are successful. But there is an argument to be made that through regulations and restricting some democratic rights and freedoms people's right to life is upheld by not allowing people to become sick.

One of the reasons these countries were successful in managing the Corona pandemic is that they acted decisively from the get go and repeated the successful procedures when subsequent outbreaks reoccurred. Common themes in these countries and how they managed the pandemic:  Tightened border control, strictness of who comes and goes and even if people are allowed to come, people who do come are highly monitored and the potential of these people coming into contact with the locals is minimized or completely cut off until it is risk free.[1] Second aspect that is common are the strict lockdowns with minimal exceptions. These countries were more willing to take strict measures in order to put a cap on the pandemic although their economies suffered as a consequence and the freedoms of people were highly restricted and without any tolerance. [2] The third common theme was sophisticated contact tracing that allowed us to act fast when it comes to isolating people that have been in contact with people that have been sick. South- Korea has been a good example of such. Although people's right to privacy protection has been undermined especially due to the lack of people's consent to collect and process their data, South- Korea was able to excellently track down whom people have been in contact with through access to phone records, credit card transactions and surveillance videos. People also received messages of close contact with people who have been infected with even details of the businesses and places they have recently visited.[3] Similar actions would see strong resistance from Western Democracies due to strong democratic values of people who believe that their rights and freedoms are above everything else and therefore such contact tracing is almost non-existent in Western Democracies although it is widely used in South- Korea.

Now we have to look at aspects in democracies that can make it rather difficult to tackle the pandemic.

First one is that in order for democracies to tackle the pandemic in the most effective manner the populous has to be educated and if the populous is not educated enough they elect and influence governmental policies through non educated opinions and not through educated opinions of experts. Or even distrust scientists and experts. People are also evidently susceptible to propaganda and populous movements that might use the populous for personal goals. Especially recently it is seen with the vaccine question, even if all the allergic reactions and the unexpected death tolls from certified vaccines such as Moderna, AstraZeneca and the Pfizer are taken into account it is abysmal to the amount of people that are dying from the Corona virus itself every day and how many people could be saved through the vaccine. Democracies are tackling this problem actively through ad campaigns and through education.[4] What has to be mentioned is that Society also does play a big role when it comes to the pandemic management, more of a collectivist type of society was more willing to give up some of their rights in order to tackle the pandemic so there is indeed a difference in societies. But yet again in more collectivist societies it was easier to undermine democratic values in order to tackle the pandemic through the willingness of the people. Trust in the government indeed does play a role as well when it comes to the populous believing that their government has people's best interests in mind and through this trust, regulations can be applied more easily. 

Second aspect of democracies when it comes to tackling such problems as the pandemic is the fact that some democracies are slow when it is necessary to act especially if the country has not faced anything similar before. Due to systems of checks and balances it is difficult to come to a fast and effective decision in democracies, especially because of an array of different ideologies and opinions in democracies as well. It was especially evident in large democratic states such as America where it was very difficult to achieve any common measures in the country as a whole when it comes to how to tackle the pandemic and in the end it ended up with member states having very different measures in place.[5]

In conclusion we can see that when it comes to trying to achieve the best results when it comes to putting a cap to the coronavirus pandemic sometimes freedoms of people and their democratically backed rights have to be undermined if the goal is to tackle the pandemic. But the question is can a democratic state undermine the beliefs and the rights of its people in order to do what the state believes is the “best” for them. It is all relative and subjective but what is objective is that more people could´ve and can be saved through harsher measures from the Corona virus but at what cost, undermining the democratic values that are essential for democracies. If you ignore people's privacy you end up with better contact tracing - not democratic especially if the populous is unwilling to give up their privacy. If you deny or limit people's freedom of movement you also limit the amount of people that can get infected - not democratic especially if the populace is unwilling to give up their freedom of movement in the case of New Zealand they actually placed people coming from abroad in specialized facilities until it was determined that they are not dangerous to let them out which is very undemocratic. Dictating what businesses can and cannot be open is also not democratic especially if people don't want these businesses to be closed. Rights to worship and the right to publicly gather. All of these aspects in a democratic fashion ideally should´ve been regulated through votes and referendums but of course it would never happen because it might be too dangerous to just leave these incredibly important decisions to the populace.

[1] New Zealand border entry requirements. Retrieved April 03, 2021, from…

[2] Wuhan lockdown: A year of China's fight against the covid pandemic. (2021, January 22). Retrieved April 03, 2021, from


[3] Ugarte, R. (2021, February 25). Behind South Korea's success in CONTAINING COVID-19: Surveillance technology infrastructures. Retrieved April 03, 2021, from…

[4] Crain, C. (2016, October 31). The case against democracy. Retrieved April 03, 2021, from


[5] Crain, C. (2016, October 31). The case against democracy. Retrieved April 03, 2021, from