Do Civil Liberties Really Matter During Pandemics?

Approaches to Coronavirus Disease (covid-19)

In: International Human Rights Law Review
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The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (covid-19) in December 2019 precipitated public health control measures in many states across the world. The impact of covid-19 was as unprecedented as were the measures introduced by states to control it. The outbreak provides an opportunity to analyse responses of states to pandemics. At the core of this article is the question whether civil liberties matter during pandemics. A rights-based approach is founded on human rights protected in international human rights treaties. In cases of massive disease outbreaks, states adopt and enforce typically radical measures to contain the spread of the infection. After the outbreak of covid-19, a range of restrictions was imposed by the affected states. However, in the haste to contain a rapidly spreading pandemic, human rights are potentially vulnerable to violations. This article assesses the responses to the pandemic by states within the context of human rights. As the article seeks to illustrate, in times of pandemics, the law on management of pandemics does not favour human rights observance. Even states with deep-rooted democratic cultures resort to illiberal responses. The rhetoric of inalienability of rights becomes hollow as even traditional democratic states mimic authoritarian regimes.

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