COVID-19 legislation in the light of the precautionary principle

Meßerschmidt K (2020)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2020


DOI: 10.1080/20508840.2020.1783627


This paper examines in general terms the impact of the precautionary principle on COVID-19 legislation and management. In academic discussion the precautionary principle is usually referred to in the context of environmental policy. The principle can also be found, however, in health protection, which suggests its transfer to the pandemic situation. Contrary to the concern that the principle could serve as a blanket justification for extreme and arbitrary interventions in civil liberties, the paper demonstrates that, notwithstanding conflicts with the rule-of-law obligation to evidence-based legislation, the precautionary principle does not supplant the principle of proportionality. Thus, it sets limits to risk-related legislation even though it allows restrictions in the absence of scientific consensus. Reflecting on the scientific debate about the precautionary principle can help to maintain (or at least restore) rationality and prudent risk tradeoffs even in times of emergency legislation.

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How to cite


Meßerschmidt, K. (2020). COVID-19 legislation in the light of the precautionary principle. The Theory and Practice of Legislation.


Meßerschmidt, Klaus. "COVID-19 legislation in the light of the precautionary principle." The Theory and Practice of Legislation (2020).

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