stethoscope on computer keyboard

How Traditional Health Records Bolster Structural Racism

By Adrian Gropper, MD

As the U.S. reckons with centuries of structural racism, an important step toward making health care more equitable will require transferring control of health records to patients and patient groups.

The Black Lives Matter movement calls upon us to review racism in all aspects of social policy, from law enforcement to health. Statistics show that Black Americans are at higher risk of dying from COVID-19. The reasons for these disparities are not entirely clear. Every obstacle to data collection makes it that much harder to find a rational solution, thereby increasing the death toll.

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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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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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