Madison, Wisconsin / USA - April 24, 2020: Demonstrators hold flags and signs at an anti lockdown rally on the steps of the Wisconsin State capitol. State Street is in the background.

COVID-19 Policies and Constitutional Violations

By Daniel Aaron

The past few weeks have seen protests against stay-at-home orders across the country. As protesters clamor for their freedom to leave home and conduct business, a constitutional battleground emerges over the novel coronavirus.

There is a strong argument that the Constitution has been infringed during the COVID-19 pandemic. But these infringements, I will argue, have more to do with the (lack of) federal response to the pandemic than curtailed rights to move, travel, and do business.

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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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German Bundestag.

Germany’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Sara Gerke

Many countries are looking these days to Germany’s approach to combating COVID-19. Although Germany initially experienced a high case rate, the country has been able to slow the spread of the virus and appears to have the situation better “under control” than other countries.

There may be various reasons for Germany’s successful handling of the pandemic so far, ranging from early testing for COVID-19 to high public outreach and transparency to increasing the number of ICU beds and ventilators.

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Reykjavík, Iceland.

COVID-19, Civil Rights, and the Rule of Law: The Case of Iceland

By Hrefna D.  Gunnarsdóttir

Response and Restrictions

In the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iceland rolled out an extensive strategy of testing, isolating, contact tracing, quarantining, and social distancing, which has helped the country avoid the most drastic rights restrictions.

Diagnostic testing of those with symptoms started almost a month before the first case was identified in late February. By early March, hospitals and nursing homes closed to visitors, and public health authorities teamed up with a private company, deCODE genetics, to collect samples from symptom-free/mildly symptomatic residents. The collaboration (while controversial) provided valuable information on the prevalence of COVID-19 to tailor Iceland’s response. Read More

Delhi, India.

COVID-19 in India: Lockdown, Legal Challenges, and Disparate Impacts

By Anand Grover

With only four hours’ notice, the Government of India imposed a nationwide lockdown to combat COVID-19, which began on March 24th, 2020 and is scheduled to end on May 17th, 2020.

The lockdown was implemented through executive orders, beginning March 24th, 2020, together with guidelines under the Disaster Management Act (DMA).

Only essential services, such as those related to security, government, food, medical supplies, and municipal cleaning, were permitted to continue operations, albeit sometimes in a curtailed manner. Inter-state and district borders were sealed. All persons, except those engaged in essential services, were mandated to stay at home and observe social distancing. Testing, quarantine and contact tracing were employed to detect and prevent further transmission of the virus. Breach of orders was criminally punishable.

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Santiago, Chile.

The Novel Coronavirus and Civil Rights: A Snapshot from Chile

By Lidia Casas Becerra

On March 18th, the Chilean government resolved, via an executive order, a state of constitutional catastrophe or calamity in response to the novel Coronavirus. Article 32, No. 5 of Chile’s constitution establishes the possibility to suspend certain civil rights based on exceptional circumstances.

Declaring a state of calamity allows the government to adopt a series of measures in the context of the pandemic which include, inter alia, restrictions to freedom of movement and freedom of assembly. The state of exception can last for up to 90 days and could be extended.

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Helsinki Cathedral, Helsinki, Finland.

Restrictions in the Name of Health During COVID-19 in Finland

By Kaisa-Maria Kimmel and Rosa Maria Ballardini

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Finland began enacting national containment measures on March 16, 2020, after declaring a national state of emergency.

These containment measures are necessary for protecting the right to life and health of many, but entail restrictions on some fundamental rights of people residing in Finland. It is therefore important to take a critical look at these measures from a legal and social perspective. Here, we discuss whether and to what extent such legislative measures have been backed up by existing laws, which regulatory vehicles have been used, as well as  public responses to the measures in Finland.

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Sydney, Australia.

COVID-19 in Australia: Protecting Public Health by Restricting Rights & Risking the Rule of Law

By Paul Harpur

Introduction

COVID-19 entered Australia via airports and cruise liners. Though Australia has not had the hospital overload and deaths experienced in other countries (as of May 13th, 2020, there have been 6,975 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia and 98 deaths), the specter of Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, combined with the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, stimulated significant state action across the country.

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