Paris, France.

COVID-19 in France: Health as a Constitutional Value and Limitations on Civil Liberties

By Stéphanie Dagron

This piece was written on May 13, 2020 amid a rapidly evolving situation. The post reflects the state of knowledge at the time of writing.

In France, a state of sanitary emergency was declared for a period of two months starting on March 23rd, 2020 in order to allow the authorities “to deal with the major health threat” created by SARS-Cov-2.

In many ways, this regime resembles the State of Emergency regime which currently exists in French law (Emergency Powers Law of April 3rd, 1955).  However, it seems the public authorities wished to instate, at least symbolically, a different regime from the ones imposed in times of terrorism or armed conflict.

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COVID infodemic concept illustration.

Why Government Information Isn’t Curing the ‘Infodemic’

By Nancy Fairbank

Coronavirus misinformation is beating truth to the punch – hitting the public more quickly and directly. This “infodemic” anchors readers to its core messages and makes dislodging its falsehoods all the more difficult.

The consequences of misinformation are also heightened in a pandemic context, when accurate information is critical to ensuring cooperation with public health measures and acting on falsehoods can rapidly endanger countless lives. Governments trying to compete are faced with two (non-exclusive) options: (1) attempting to get out accurate information first and (2) employing strategies to evict misinformation that’s already filled the gaps before they could.

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Copenhagen, Denmark.

How Denmark’s Epidemic Act Was Amended to Respond to COVID-19

By Janne Rothmar Herrmann

On March 12, 2020 the Danish Prime Minister informed the nation in a televised statement that she was effectively shutting down the country in response to COVID-19. She urged parents to keep their children home the next day, but gave schools, daycare centers, kindergartens, and all public employees two working days to shut down.

That same day Parliament passed an Act that made major changes in the Epidemic Act, which Denmark has had in force since 1915. The current Epidemic Act dates from 1979 and has been amended with minor revisions several times since then.

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Amsterdam, Netherlands.

COVID-19, the Netherlands, and Human Rights: A Balancing Act

By Brigit Toebes

The Netherlands, a country with 17 million inhabitants, had its first COVID-19 hospitalizations in the beginning of March 2020. On March 16th, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced a range of measures aimed at “maximum control,” but not “maximum containment” of the virus: in other words, social distancing measures, but no full lockdown.

After an initial two-month closure, schools, sports clubs, bars and restaurants began gradually reopening after May 18th. All major events, however, remain cancelled until further notice.  According to the statistics, by May 22, over 11,000 people had been hospitalized and nearly 5,800 people had died.

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Auckland, New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Paul Rishworth

On March 21st, 2020 New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced four “Alert Levels” in the fight to contain COVID-19.

The concept of “Alert Levels” had no specific legal basis; it denoted escalating restrictions to be imposed by a combination of exhortation and legal orders.  Level 2 was implemented that day, involving heightened border controls and a request that persons over 70 years old stay at home. Level 4 came four days later.

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Bogota, Colombia.

General Quarantine, Social Emergency, and Economic Crisis: COVID-19 in Colombia

By Isabel C. Jaramillo Sierra

The first case of COVID-19 diagnosed in Colombia was declared on March 6th. The first COVID-19-related death occurred on March 16.

Between the first known case and the first death in Colombia, the government took action to stop the spread of the disease. All of these decisions, insofar as they are considered part of ordinary police powers, will be reviewed by the State Council as to their legality. The State Council has decided to review 400 administrative acts that it has identified as related to the emergency.

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Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

COVID-19 and the State of Alarm vis-à-vis Human Rights in Spain

By Dorothy Estrada-Tanck

As of May 20, 2020, Spain had the second highest per capita rate of COVID-19 deaths in the world, with 59.5 deaths per 100,000.

In response to the coronavirus crisis, Spain declared a state of alarm on 14 March 2020, which lasted for fifteen days. It did so through “Royal Decree 463/2020, declaring a state of alarm to manage the health crisis caused by COVID-19,” adopted by left-wing Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his Council of Ministers in the executive branch of government and signed by King Philip VI. The state of alarm has been prolonged through Royal Decrees five times to last until June 7th.

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Doctor or nurse wearing PPE, N95 mask, face shield and personal protective gown standing beside the car/road screening for Covid-19 virus, Nasal swab Test.

COVID-19 Highlights Need for Rights to Repair and Produce in Emergencies

By Joshua D. Sarnoff

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies, organizations, and individuals have sought to address supply chain gaps for needed medical equipment. Spare parts and products created during the COVID-19 pandemic include ventilator tube splitters, nasopharyngeal swabs, and face shields.

In the past, outside of the context of a public health crisis, I have discussed the need to adopt legislation to create a narrow exemption from design patent liability to assure a competitive supply of automobile repair parts. The current pandemic makes a stronger case for the need to explicitly incorporate into our legal system a right to repair and supply products in emergencies.

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