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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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.

Safer at Home? Yes, but Not According to the Wisconsin Supreme Court

By Beatrice Brown, Jane Cooper, and Danielle Pacia

Due to the Bill of Health production schedule, this piece is being published two weeks after it was written, on May 20th, 2020. The authors would like to affirm the importance of protests against anti-Black racism in America.

Stay-at-home orders—the primary means of managing the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.—face increasing opposition as protestors against these public health measures clamor for a “return to normal.” In Wisconsin, pushback against stay-at-home orders culminated in the state Supreme Court’s decision on May 13 to reverse the state’s “Safer at Home” policy.

Republican leaders of the state legislature filed suit against state Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm and other health officials, resulting in the case Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm. In a 4-3 ruling, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the “Safer at Home” order was “unlawful” and “unenforceable.”  Read More

international connections concept art.

Key Themes in “Global Responses to COVID-19” Symposium: Privacy and Health Rights

By Alicia Ely Yamin

This post is the second analysis of key themes that have emerged from the digital symposium “Global Responses to COVID-19: Rights, Democracy, and the Law.”

1. The crisis exposes dramatically different impacts on the distinct interests protected as “privacy” rights.

Life in democratic societies is enhanced when the law protects what information and aspects of intimate personal life an individual shares with others.

But the pandemic has accelerated the use of a variety of surveillance technologies, which are now being introduced and/or rapidly expanded to trace the virus, and in turn individuals’ movements and lives. One South Korean legal expert interviewed for this symposium put it bluntly: “It looks like we’re living at the end of privacy.”

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NYC MTA subway message for commuters.

New Data Capture State COVID-19 Responses in Real Time

New data from the Center for Public Health Law Research captures the wide variety of mitigation policies from all 50 states and DC intended to prevent further spread and lessen the potential impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

This data currently includes orders and laws from 20 states from January 20, 2020 through April 30, 2020. Laws and orders from the remaining 30 states and DC will be added in the coming weeks.

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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.

Rights, Democracy, and the Law in the United States During COVID-19

Our latest digital symposium, Global Responses to COVID-19: Rights, Democracy, and the Law, presents a snapshot of the spectrum of rights-related measures adopted in response to the pandemic in dozens of countries to date.

Given the international focus of the symposium, we opted not to solicit a submission representing the situation in the United States. However, the Bill of Health blog has published numerous relevant posts on different dimensions of legal and policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

The selections below, which we will continually update, offer an array of perspectives on how the U.S. response to the pandemic has affected rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

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