Public Health Police Powers and Human Rights in Pandemics: The Role of Law and Beyond
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, human-rights restrictive measures have been implemented throughout the world. Persons’ liberties and freedoms (civil and political rights) as well as social, economic and cultural rights are constrained in order to mitigate the spread of the disease. The protection of public health means limitation of other rights, including, paradoxically, the right to health. Containing the virus often amounts to serious impediment of access to necessary healthcare services and basic products during the emergency. The authority to do so derives, broadly speaking, from states’ police powers.Three crucial questions prompt our attention: What are the reach and limits of police powers in an age of pandemics? How did different countries strive towards guaranteeing access to healthcare during the health emergency? Does it imply the imposition of new hierarchies of rights? And how can the necessary human rights protection in both of these dimensions be guaranteed under (comparative) public health laws in extraordinary times? Discussing these questions will help to enrich our understanding of the relationship between human rights and public health during pandemics.
The aim of this working group is to bring together scholars from diverse branches of law (eg. international, national and EU law, constitutional and administrative law, and human rights law, all focused on public health issues) and other disciplines in order to: 1) analyse the role of law in mediation between the justification of far-reaching human rights restrictions and the exercise of public health police powers; 2) explore what cross-cutting methodologies may be used to mediate the potential conflict between the protection of human rights and public health measures during disease outbreaks; 3) discuss comparative insights on the approaches employed by different states to ensure access to healthcare products and services during the COVID-19 emergency; 4) identify the post-pandemic research agenda in the still-burgeoning fields of comparative public health law intertwined with comparative human rights.