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The Lancet reports on Human Rights failures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Is the tide turning? Think again.
a retrospective and prospective analysis
When I first read the title of an article in The Lancet last week, I thought, this might be interesting, some acknowledgement about how bad lockdowns and mandates were. The title ‘Human rights and the COVID-19 pandemic: a retrospective and prospective analysis’ made me read on.
Maybe, I shouldn’t have been so naïve and maybe I should have looked at who the authors were first but I read on anyway.
I was still hopeful during the summary.
When the history of the COVID-19 pandemic is written, the failure of many states to live up to their human rights obligations should be a central narrative.
Which states will they talk about? The UK? America? I’d put money on Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Since then, COVID-19's effects have been profoundly unequal, both nationally and globally. These inequalities have emphatically highlighted how far countries are from meeting the supreme human rights command of non-discrimination, from achieving the highest attainable standard of health that is equally the right of all people everywhere, and from taking the human rights obligation of international assistance and cooperation seriously.
Rubbing my hands together, I scrolled on, expecting to see scathing criticism of citizens being locked at home and how Covid mandates were completely unjust.
We propose embedding human rights and equity within a transformed global health architecture as the necessary response to COVID-19's rights violations. This means vastly more funding from high-income countries to support low-income and middle-income countries in rights-based recoveries, plus implementing measures to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 medical technologies.
We also emphasise structured approaches to funding and equitable distribution going forward, which includes embedding human rights into a new pandemic treaty. Above all, new legal instruments and mechanisms, from a right to health treaty to a fund for civil society right to health advocacy, are required so that the narratives of future health emergencies—and people's daily lives—are ones of equality and human rights.
Oh, here we go - high-income countries imposing their views on low-income countries. Distribution of mRNA vaccines and a new pandemic treaty.
Deflated, I finally checked the authors. The lead author works for the WHO and many of the other authors championed vaccine passports.
Realising this isn’t going to be the article I thought it was going to be, I skipped to the conclusion.
Equity demands treating health as a global public good and creating new legal instruments grounded in rights and equity. A reimagined, strengthened global health architecture, with human rights as its foundation, would be a fitting monument to the tens of millions who have died and suffered grievously—and would better prepare the world to address climate change, antimicrobial resistance, and other global threats. Furthermore, it would enable a swift, effective response the next time a novel or emerging infection threatens the globe—honouring the dignity of each of us.
I’ve seen that language before. “Equity demands”, “global public good”, “grounded in rights and equity”, “human rights as its foundation”. And whilst it all sounds lovely, it never ends well and the only human rights that are respected are those belonging to the humans that agree with what is being proposed.
You don’t want a pandemic treaty, forced vaccinations and mandates? Think of the tens of millions who have died and suffered grievously, you monster. Think of climate change, you devil in disguise. This is being done to honour the dignity of each of us. Well, not your dignity, you don’t agree with us, you stay locked in the quarantine camp thinking about the lovely dignity you could have if you did agree with us.
It was a struggle but I forced myself to read the rest of the article.
A failure to safeguard the public’s health
Many authoritarian regimes and populist leaders, however, have disregarded science, and have imposed harsh restrictions on human freedoms
One again, my hopes were raised. Maybe there is a small section on lockdowns etc. I saw the letters U.S.A. Maybe it will discuss how it is ridiculous that unvaccinated people still can’t travel there. Nope, it criticised the USA for opposing risk-mitigation measures such as business closures and mask or vaccine mandates.
It continued to get worse.
Public health officials have not always followed the science. The Public Health Agency of Sweden chose to allow a large portion of the country's population to become infected, aiming to achieve herd immunity through eschewing basic scientific guidance of physical distancing and mask-wearing. This course was so fundamentally unsuccessful in protecting people's health that it was beyond the discretion permissible under the right to health. By the end of 2020, Sweden's mortality rate was ten times that of its neighbours, four-times higher than Denmark's, and higher than in most European countries.
A pandemic of inequality
I agree with much of this section to a large extent, impacts of COVID-19 does disproportionately affect people with little money due to a plethora of risk factors. But so does any disease. And by locking people up, making them unhealthier and poorer, you only exacerbate this inequality.
But carry on with the virtual signalling and keep blaming it on systemic racism. Or Covid racism, I’m not quite sure. Either way, by not investigating why certain races disproportionately filled critical care units meant that more ethnic minorities carried on dying. Congratulations, by trying not to be racist, you actually ended up being racist.
Inequities harm rights to health, education, food, and an adequate standard of living
Service disruptions were responsible for an estimated 47 000 additional malaria deaths in 2020 compared with 2019,43 and 100 000 additional tuberculosis deaths.44 121 (93%) of 130 countries reported mental health service disruptions, as depression and anxiety levels greatly increased.45 By 2022, more than 200 million additional people faced acute hunger compared with in 2019,46 while COVID-19 forced nearly 80 million people into extreme poverty.
One word - Lockdowns.
The COVID-19 excuse: abrogating freedoms
Governments exercised vast emergency health powers, including business closures, cordon sanitaire, and full lockdowns, which are warranted only if supported by science, and are necessary, proportionate, and non-discriminatory.
So lockdowns are warranted if supported by science. Still no acknowledgement of the terrible harms they have caused.
authoritarian leaders have used the pandemic as an excuse to violate human rights, including suppressing information, punishing whistleblowers, arresting and detaining opponents and citizen journalists, and undermining democratic rights
I recognise all of those things having happened in many Western countries but are they mentioned? Of course not. China, Tanzania, Egypt, Russia, Pakistan, Madagascar, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Cayman Islands, Burundi, India, Hungary, Malaysia, Zambia, El Salvador, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Ethiopia and Uganda all get a mention but nothing about the US, UK, Australia, Canada or New Zealand.
France and Greece get a brief mention. Maybe they haven’t been sending enough funding to the WHO recently.
Building back better with justice: a human rights response to COVID-19
And there we have it. Now we know exactly where this article has come from!
Global health with justice embedded into legislation and institution
A new rights-based national and global governance for the right to health would respond to the daily health emergency of health inequities that COVID-19 revealed and reinforced. Future governance, and the mechanisms that underpin it, must ensure equitable and effective responses to health emergencies by embedding the right to health, accountability, participation, and equity in global and national policies and international responses.
A new right-based global governance. Where have we heard that before? Nothing to see here. It all sounds completely reasonable and not sinister or dystopian at all.
These people don’t have a clue. That don’t recognise the harms they have caused and they wouldn’t recognise a human right if it jabbed them in the arm.
But they are calling the shots and they want global governance based around the greater good. Not enough countries did as they were told during this pandemic, so next time they want a structure in place that means your democratically elected leaders can’t decide if lockdowns are appropriate or not, the whole world will be locking down together.
Don’t get in the way of the greater good because if you do, you aren’t good and that means we can lock you up. Nobody likes not-good people and everyone will cheer your incarceration because it will keep them safe.
If these recommendations are allowed to go ahead, not only is it dangerous but also stupid. Never again will we know if a certain measure was the correct one to take or if a vaccine or treatment has a particular side effect because everybody in every country will have to do the same thing.
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