Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Kaveh Khoshnood


The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly elevated the status of public health. Concurrently, public health ethics has been brought to the forefront of the field and its practices in several ways. Over the past year, SARS-CoV-2 has affected nearly every country. In both high and low resource settings, policymakers turned to public health to ease the tension placed on health care systems by COVID-19. Governments implemented measures ranging from lockdown orders to mask mandates, all with the primary goal of curbing the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The effectiveness of these interventions has become a salient topic in public health research, and much epidemiological data has been published to inform ongoing responses to the pandemic. However, little attention has been given to the broader consequences of these policies. More specifically, ethics has rarely been considered in the development and evaluation of COVID-19 policies. Without the proper inclusion of ethics and human rights in public health responses, equitable outcomes cannot be guaranteed. This thesis aims to apply an ethical framework to analyze two types of COVID-19 policies: the restriction of mass gatherings and school closures/reopening. These measures were analyzed using a public health ethics framework to assess their effectiveness and outcomes as well as to facilitate comparisons between China and Iran, two countries with vastly different political structures and experiences during the pandemic. The analysis revealed that, while these policies were effective to some degree, neither policy was ethically justified in either China or Iran due to the unequal distribution of benefits and burdens across populations which has induced ramifications that extend beyond the current pandemic. These results demonstrate that public health officials and political leaders have an obligation to serve all populations and aspects of health especially during a public health crisis; controlling a pandemic itself does not ensure full health for all. Ethics should play an essential role in public health to avoid past mistakes and guarantee the right to health around the world.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access