Masks.

Indiana’s Mask Mandate Debate Raises Public Health Enforcement Questions

By Ross Silverman

On Wednesday, July 22, 2020, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced an Emergency Order to mandate mask wearing in public places beginning July 27, and indicated that violations of the order could potentially result in criminal penalties. Shortly after, Attorney General Curtis Hill issued an opinion questioning the Governor’s authority to criminalize mask violations under the state’s Emergency Management and Disaster Law (EMDL).

Indiana’s Executive Order, while in line with some 30 other states now imposing mask orders, represents a change of positions for the Governor. Holcomb has been an advocate for mask wearing in both word and deed, but, until now, not a mandate. As he indicated at his press conference, there have been “concerning changes” in the state’s trajectory of new COVID-19 cases, and that “By masking up, we can & will save lives & slow the spread of #COVID19.”

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Map from Global COVID-19 Symposium.

Global Responses to COVID-19: An Inflection Point for Democracy, Rights, and Law

By Alicia Ely Yamin

Although some of the common challenges identified across our global survey of legal responses to COVID-19 have their roots in long-established realities, the economic and social inflection point created by COVID-19 provides an opportunity, as well as an imperative, to consider how these responses will shape social norms and structure democratic institutions in the post-pandemic world.

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Madison, Wisconsin / USA - April 24th, 2020: Nurses at Reopen Wisconsin Protesting against the protesters protesting safer at home order rally holding signs telling people to go home.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Safer at Home Order

By Katherine Drabiak

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently struck down the state’s Safer at Home Order, calling it “unlawful, invalid, unenforceable.” Wisconsin Gov. Evers, politicians, and the media responded with outrage, alleging the decision would “throw the state into chaos” and demonstrated “reckless disregard for human life.”

These characterizations both misrepresent what the case was about and omit meaningful discussion of what state laws do – and do not – permit when responding to communicable disease.

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Budapest, Hungary.

Hungary’s Response to COVID-19 Vastly Expands Executive Power

By Csaba Győry

Hungary was one of the first countries in Europe to introduce restrictions in order to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections.

Policy wise, the restrictions overall were similar to those of other European countries. The legal basis for these restrictions, however, has proven very controversial because of the extremely broad sway it provides the executive, and has received a great deal of attention from EU institutions, scholars, and the press.

This is the conundrum of the Hungarian response to COVID-19: an almost unlimited authorization for the executive to rule by decree, which, at the same time, was used relatively sparingly and in a broadly similar manner as in other EU countries.

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Lagos, Nigeria.

The Law and Human Rights in Nigeria’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Cheluchi Onyemelukwe

To limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Nigerian government took restrictive containment measures, with the effect of curtailing fundamental rights. These included lockdowns of various states and a cessation of social and economic activity, except those activities relating to essential services. While these measures followed existing public health advisories, they have raised significant legal, constitutional, human rights, and legitimacy issues.

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Dublin, Ireland.

COVID-19 Lays Bare Ireland’s Selective Approach to Care

By Ruth Fletcher

Between enabling and suffocating legal measures

Tensions between welfarisms that enable and those that suffocate are evident in Ireland’s move to restrict the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the reaction to it.

Two pieces of emergency legislation passed through Oireachtas Eireann (the Irish Parliament) by March 26th. The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 and the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2020 address a range of social, civil and economic issues.  Read More

Machu Picchu, Peru.

Peru and COVID-19: Quick Response Hampered by Structural Failures

By Eduardo Dargent and Camila Gianella

Peru was among the first Latin American countries to implement legal measures that restrict civil rights in order to stem the spread of COVID-19.

On March 15, with 28 confirmed cases and no deaths, the government issued the Supreme Decree N° 044-2020-PCM declaring a state of emergency for 15 days. Measures in the decree included closing the borders, ordering a general lockdown, forbidding domestic travel, and closing schools, universities, churches, and all non-essential businesses, among others.

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Cape Town, South Africa.

Human Rights, the Rule of Law, and COVID-19 in South Africa

By Mark Heywood

South Africa’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on March 5th, 2020. Ten days later, on March 15th, 2020, the government utilized the Disaster Management Act (2002) to declare a State of National Disaster. Under this Act, the government set up a National Command Council (NCC) made up of Cabinet Ministers and restricted certain rights necessary to prevent SARS-Cov-2 transmission and “flatten the curve.”

A national lockdown started on March 27th. It was relaxed slightly (to level 4) on May 1st, and was further relaxed (to level 3) on June 1st. The lockdown severely restricted freedom of movement, closed all but essential companies and schools, banned the sale of alcohol and tobacco, and introduced a night-time curfew between 8pm and 5am. By May 22nd, the Minister of Police reported that 230,000 people had been arrested for violating lock-down regulations.

The most affected constitutionally recognized rights are freedom of movement, assembly, and trade. However, on paper at least, care has been taken to ensure that political rights and rights to freedom of expression and association are not limited, and the President has couched the country’s response in terms of the Constitution, particularly the rights to life, dignity and access to health care services. He has also frequently referred to the right to equality and promised that in the post COVID-19 period South Africa will do much more to tackle the inequalities that have been exposed by the coronavirus.

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