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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Brazil.

COVID-19 in Brazil: Institutional Meltdown in the Middle of a Pandemic

By Octávio Luiz Motta Ferraz

There has been no doubt fierce disagreement across the world’s democracies on how to fight the pandemic, i.e.: on how to protect public health while respecting civil liberties; on how to minimize the damage to jobs and businesses; on how strictly to enforce public health measures. Yet nowhere has a democratic country witnessed such frontal and public quarrel within its own government as in Brazil.

Not even in the U.S. have things  gone that far in the delicate relationship between Trump and Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). No other country seems to have had as many challenges in the courts related to the response to the crisis, either.

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Stockholm, Sweden.

Sweden’s Response to COVID-19: A Tale of Trust, Recommendations, and Odorous Nudges

By Behrang Kianzad and Timo Minssen

Introduction

The Swedish response to the Corona-crisis has been relatively moderate compared to most other countries.

Sweden did not opt for a total lockdown, did not close elementary schools, day cares, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and other places of business. Public gatherings of up to 50 people are still allowed until further notice. Sweden’s intra EU borders remain open — in contrast to its neighbors Denmark, Finland and Norway — although the government has extended the  temporary entry ban to the EU via Sweden through May 15th.

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Forbidden City, Beijing, China.

Legal Tools Used in China in the COVID-19 Emergency

By Wang Chenguang

The Essential Role of Law in Containing the New Coronavirus

The stark truth in the COVID-19 emergency is the lack of effective drugs, therapies, and a vaccine at the moment and in the near future. Therefore the most effective way of containing the new coronavirus is still the traditional response of cutting off the channels of its human-to-human transmission. Realizing this fact, China has used, from the beginning, measures of social distancing, wearing face masks in public, quarantine and staying home to meet the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19. All of these measures are means to adapt normal human behaviors to an emergency situation. To do so, law — the most effective set of norms used to regulate people’s behavior — is logically utilized to stop the spread of the virus. This idea is clearly expressed by the Chinese government’s policy of legal, scientific and orderly containment of the disease.

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LOMBARDIA, ITALY - FEBRUARY 26, 2020: Empty hospital field tent for the first AID, a mobile medical unit of red cross for patient with Corona Virus. Camp room for people infected with an epidemic.

Framing the Digital Symposium – Global Responses to COVID-19: Rights, Democracy, and the Law

By Alicia Ely Yamin, Senior Fellow

This digital symposium presents a pointillistic portrait of the spectrum of rights-related measures adopted to stop the spread of COVID-19 in dozens of countries around the world to date. The impulse for this symposium emerges out of the conviction that it is imperative that we emerge from the throes of this pandemic not only with the fewest possible lives and livelihoods lost, but also with democratic institutions and the rule of law intact.

Although the portrait continues to evolve, the time to begin collectively reflecting on lessons regarding the relationship between population health and decision-making in emerging, consolidated, and illiberal democracies alike — and their implications for the post pandemic future we want — is now.

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State Civil Liability Protections for Physicians who Provide Care During Covid-19 Pandemic map.

How States are Protecting Health Care Providers from Legal Liability in the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Valerie Gutmann Koch

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, clinicians and policymakers alike have raised the alarm about potential legal liability for following crisis standards of care.

Liability protections may be necessary when, due to the circumstances of the emergency, a state faces scarce resources (such as ventilators or ICU beds) and the state activates its crisis standards of care (CSC). A CSC authorizes the legal prioritization of patients for scarce resources based on changing circumstances and increased demands. CSCs provide a mechanism for reallocating staff, facilities, and supplies to meet needs during a public health emergency.

Notably, and by necessity, the standard of care that clinicians may be able to provide during the COVID-19 pandemic may depart significantly from standard non-emergency medical practice. In a non-crisis setting, the prevailing medical standard of care focuses on the needs of each individual patient and is centered on the principle of informed consent. In a public health emergency, however, such concentrated care may be impossible or inadvisable due to: (1) resource limitations and (2) the goal of saving as many lives as possible.

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NHS building

Obtaining a Hospital Bed in the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Legal Perspective

By John Tingle

The recently reported case of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust v MB [2020] EWHC 882 captures well the value of English common case law in resolving complex health care disputes within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and more generally.

Mr Justice Chamberlain in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice ruled recently that a patient, known as MB, who had occupied an NHS bed for over a year, must vacate it and instead receive care in the community. Her room could be required urgently by COVID-19 patients and there would be an increased risk of MB contracting COVID-19 if she remained in hospital.

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WASHINGTON MAY 21: Pro-choice activists rally to stop states’ abortion bans in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on May 21, 2019.

The Harms of Abortion Restrictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Beatrice Brown

Several states, including Texas, Ohio, and Alabama, have dangerously and incorrectly deemed abortions a non-essential or elective procedure during the COVID-19 pandemic. The stated reason for these orders is to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE), a scarce, important resource for protecting health care workers treating COVID-19 patients.

However, these policies restricting abortion are unlikely to conserve PPE, and more importantly, they mischaracterize the nature and importance of abortions.

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