globe.

‘I Think of It in Terms of Years’: The Future of the COVID-19 Pandemic in South Africa

By Chloe Reichel

“No One Is Safe Until Everyone Is Safe” goes the rallying cry for global vaccine equity.

We would think that the COVID-19 pandemic already has made this point clear enough.

And yet, pundits are heralding the “end” of the pandemic in the U.S., all while viral variants that may be capable of evading the protection of vaccines continue to crop up both domestically and internationally.

In this Q&A, South African journalist and human rights activist Mark Heywood offers a look at the national COVID-19 epidemic in South Africa. The sobering reality there, in terms of morbidity and mortality, and in terms of expectations for the future, underscores the urgency for globally coordinated leadership and action to address the pandemic.

Our conversation from late March 2021, which has been edited and condensed, follows.

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Cape Town, South Africa - 6 April 2020 : Empty streets and stay home sign in Cape Town during the Coronavirus lockdown.

One Year Later: COVID-19, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law in South Africa

By Chloe Reichel

South Africa has faced a devastating national COVID-19 epidemic, with over 1.5 million confirmed cases, and over 50,000 confirmed deaths.

The true toll, in terms of cases and deaths, is likely much higher. Research shows the country has recorded 150,000 excess deaths since May 2020.

The pandemic has also profoundly affected South Africans’ constitutionally recognized rights.

Since the start of the pandemic, the country has experienced varying degrees of lockdown, which, at different points, included a curfew, bans on the sale of alcohol and tobacco, and the closure of most businesses. The lockdown has been enforced strictly, resulting in hundreds of thousands of arrests for violations.

Mark Heywood highlighted some of these rights concerns last June in “Human Rights, the Rule of Law, and COVID-19 in South Africa,” a contribution to Bill of Health‘s digital symposium on global responses to COVID-19.

I spoke with Heywood in late March 2021 to get an update on the state of human rights and the rule of law in South Africa one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Our conversation, which has been edited and condensed, follows.

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Supreme Court of Mexico.

How Does the Mexican Constitution Regulate Crisis?

By David García Sarubbi

When the Mexican Constitution was issued in 1917, one of its main concerns was to regulate how democracy must deal with crisis, that is, with exceptional situations that demand the exercise of powers outside the Constitution’s regular limits to suppress potential dangers.

There is not an “off switch” available for political powers to put the Constitution to rest while solving urgent issues. Instead, there are complex rules to govern decisions in extraordinary circumstances.

The Constitution’s Article 29 has a Suspension Clause, which contains a detailed regulation for such cases. Moreover, in Article 73, Section XVI, there is another regulation relating to pandemics like the one we are experiencing currently.

Thus, from the founding era, the Mexican constitution has upheld the value of the rule of law, even in extraordinary circumstances.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Concerns Mount About Rule of Law in Argentina During COVID-19

By Roberto Gargarella

From the first time that I wrote about the COVID-19 situation in Argentina, June 8, until the date I am writing this, September 7, things have changed significantly.

First, the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in Argentina has risen to nearly 10,000; the 16th highest death toll in the world. The total number of cases is 500,000; which places Argentina among the top 10 countries for infections worldwide.

These alarming statistics are particularly worrying in Argentina, given a number of additional facts mentioned in my original blog.

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Cartoon of contact tracing for COVID-19.

COVID-19, Misinformation, and the Law in Nigeria

By Cheluchi Onyemelukwe

The spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria has been paralleled by the spread of misinformation and disinformation about the novel coronavirus. In Nigeria, information casting doubt on the existence of the coronavirus is spread especially through social media channels, but also through other informal channels.

Some religious leaders with considerable influence have doubted the existence of the virus, and shared conspiracy theories on its origins and the interventions instituted to prevent further spread of the virus. Others have taken to social media to express concerns about the Nigerian government and a perceived lack of transparency. For example, the government has received criticism for continuing its school feeding program during the pandemic, at a time when schools are closed, children are at home, and the country’s financial resources are scarce.

Unproven cures and interventions are also regularly propagated, especially via social media channels such as WhatsApp. For instance, hydroxychloroquine, a drug used for malaria previously, has been touted as a cure, despite evidence to the contrary, prompting some to stockpile it and instigating much discussion on social media.

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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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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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