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Anjum Shabbir
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8th April 2020
Covid-19 Human Rights

Governments’ COVID-19 Measures: how are they impacting human rights?

The Fundamental Rights Agency is publishing monthly reports on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights.

It has just published the first report, which looks at the impact of government measures that have been imposed in response to the outbreak on the fundamental rights of individuals. It notes that such measures particularly affect the rights of vulnerable and at-risk categories of people, such as the elderly, children, people with disabilities, prisoners, detainees, the homeless, Roma and refugees (at increased risk of infection, with more limited access to information, at increased risk of neglect, or who experience an even more restricted right to move around).

The rights that have been curbed include freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, and freedoms relating to data protection, work, health (de-prioritising those with other health issues such as cancer, and the elderly when taking into account limited intensive care units) and education, by requiring social and physical distancing between people – separating families and isolating certain people, and impacting on nursing homes (with deaths going unreported), prisons and refugee centres. The report suggests that targeted measures be taken to address specific needs of vulnerable groups, such as shelters for victims of domestic violence, and accessible healthcare information.

The report also highlights that there have been increased racist and xenophobic attacks against people of perceived Asian background (including by politicians and public figures), which should be monitored, reported, investigated and prosecuted.

It also considers disinformation, which can undermine the freedom of expression and democracy, and data protection safeguards that should be taken into account when protecting health.

In respect of the latter, the EDPS has gone further in proposing that an EU-wide mobile application be created in place of, or together with, measures that governments are currently taking, or preparing to take, in cooperation with telecoms and online platform multinationals, in order to track the movement of individuals and contact them to send them messages about the pandemic. See EU Law Live’s post on that proposal here.

Read the FRA’s report here.

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