Global Health

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COVID-19 and Defences in the Law of State Responsibility: Part I

As at 16 March 2020, there were nearly 165.000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 6.470 deaths in 146 countries or territories. The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the Director-General of the WHO on 30 January 2020 which, according to the 2005 International Health Regulations, is an ‘extraordinary event’ which, as the WHO further explains, is ‘serious, unusual or unexpected’ carries trans-national implications, and may require immediate international action. On 11 March 2020, the WHO declared it a pandemic. Several States have taken measures in an attempt to contain and mitigate the spread of the disease, and many have declared states of emergency in accordance with their own domestic laws. On Monday 9 March 2020, Italy was the first country to impose a nationwide lockdown to slow Europe’s worst COVID-19 outbreak. Before this, China had imposed similar measures affecting Hubei Province. Similar measures have been adopted in many other States, as the virus continues to spread. The measures mostly involve social distancing, including…

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Do the containment measures taken by Italy in relation to COVID-19 comply with human rights law?

Italians, like the citizens of other democratic countries in times of peace, have learned to take for granted certain civil liberties and freedoms, such as the freedom of movement and assembly. It suddenly became evident to them that the enjoyment of these rights can be limited as the country has now been put on lockdown by the government,…

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The Outbreak of COVID-19 Coronavirus: are the International Health Regulations fit for purpose?

  The outbreak of coronavirus first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, China (COVID-19 in WHO’s parlance) has taken the world by surprise and confirmed our shared global vulnerability to the appearance of new pathogens, in particular airborne viruses that spread easily through travel and social proximity. As of 25 February 2020, China had reported more than 77…

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Deweaponising the Biological Weapons Convention: Can an arms control instrument enhance the global disease surveillance?

  On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) declared the outbreak of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (“PHEIC”). The legal significance a PHEIC under the International Health Regulations (“IHR”) has already been addressed on EJIL:Talk!. Though the most comprehensive, the IHR are not the only international instrument…

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Human Rights and the Environment: The UN Human Rights Committee Affirms the Duty to Protect

Recently, the Human Rights Committee published its views in the case Portillo Cáceres v. Paraguay (currently available only in Spanish). In this landmark decision, the Committee dealt, for the first time, with the question of the States’ duty to protect individuals from environmental degradation under articles 6 (right to life) and 17 (protection of the…

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