Essay on Corona Pandemic: To What Extent May the Fundamental Rights of People Be Restricted?
Number of words: 2131
Currently, numerous measures established to control the spread of coronavirus entail the restriction of fundamental human rights. The pandemic has affected the daily lives of individuals in many states in the European Union. Due to the current situation of uncertainty, many governments have drafted measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. Some such measures justify the restraint of human rights including freedom of assembly and movement. Border controls, school closures, and lockdown are various measures undertaken by most countries globally to halt the spread of COVID-19. Today, millions have been infected by the virus, and the WHO has not developed a cure yet. This implies the future of the virus is unknown, and authorities may continue infringing fundamental basic rights like freedom to religion, and right to health for millions of people to face the present public health emergency. Such rights may not be accessible to individuals for an unforeseen period due to the uncertainty of the virus, as many health experts advise people to continue staying at home and observe social distancing. As a result, governments will continue infringing fundamental human rights until such time the cure for the virus is found, or upon the exit of the pandemic from the global population.
1.1. Problem Statement
The global coronavirus pandemic is no joke and has presented challenges to many countries in efforts to control the spread. Thousands of people have died from the virus calling for stiff measures to mitigate the problem. Such challenges have forced authorities to restrict fundamental human rights, a measure that to some extent, has controlled the spread of the virus. However, most individuals seem to be tired of the infringement as people continue to defy government restriction. For instance, for multiple days, the Americans have been demonstrating against racism in their campaign Black Lives Matters, which saw most people resisting social distancing. Also, other countries have resumed flights operations both locally and internationally. Thus, this defiance has been problematic to authorities as they strive to fight COVID-19, which shows no signs of a cure yet.
1.2. Research Questions and Objective
The restriction of fundamental human rights like freedom to movement, assembly, and rights to religion has been effective in fighting coronavirus pandemic. Most authorities took measures as the virus spread escalated in March to June, killing thousands of people. When crises arise, international human rights law permits various human rights to be restricted. EU member states developed protective measures relating to fundamental rights consideration to shield the public health. This paper will address various research questions like; how has coronavirus pandemic impacted fundamental rights? To what extent might fundamental rights of individuals be restricted? The objective of this study is to evaluate the effects of coronavirus pandemic on fundamental human rights.
2. Coronavirus pandemic outlook
2.1. Impacts on people’s lives
The COVID-19 pandemic has come as a global shock spreading at an alarming speed. Millions of people have been infected, and thousands died. The pandemic has resulted in economy shrinkage that has adversely affected people’s normal lives. Many have lost jobs, and others closed their businesses in efforts to observe government regulations. Many countries have closed schools and places of worship as they strive to observe social distancing measures. Furthermore, lockdowns have been imposed restricting the movement of people. Severe places of infection have been locked down as we saw in Italy. Many experts have advised individuals to stay at home or wear face masks when in public places to protect oneself from infections. Due to such restrictions, people’s lives have significantly changed as most hope for their authorities to open up the country. However, the escalating cases in June and rising cases of deaths force many countries to continue imposing the restriction, mostly relating to the fundamental rights of people. Therefore, people may not likely resume their usual way of life, for instance, movement from one country to another, going to places of worship or attending schools or colleges. Although such restrictions have had adverse effects on individuals lives, it is imperative to note they are intended to curb the spread of COVID-19.
2.2. Human rights
Right to health: after the emergence of the pandemic, the rights to health and healthcare access was compromised. Individuals have rights to benefit from medical treatment and access preventive care, as stated in Article 35 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. However, many people have been affected during the coronavirus crisis, thus overwhelming the healthcare systems. Due to inadequate capacity to meet peoples’ needs, patients have been turned away by healthcare professionals, costing them their opportunity to exercise healthcare rights.
Freedom of movement: strict quarantine measures have been established in countries like Spain, France, and Italy to control the spread of coronavirus. After the closure of art venues, sports, and shops, travel authorisation documents and lockdowns have been prioritised over movement rights as outlined in Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights. People are being stopped by police arbitrary for aggressive inspection and temperature checks like seen in China. Many international flights have been grounded, and countries are closing borders to ban movement into and out of the country. However, such restrictions seem legit since the virus is a threat to public health.
Freedom to religion: in attempts to control the spread of the virus through overcrowding, many placed of worship have been closed. Most people were not able to celebrate Easter like before. Therefore, the restrictions deprived many believers of their religious rights. Until now, such places of worship remain closed as the virus continues to infect more people globally. Social distancing has proved to be useful in curbing the spread; thus, it seems legitimate to continue restricting freedom of religion.
Right to education: schools and colleges have been shut to discourage overcrowding. During the crisis, people are encouraged to stay at home. Many students have been deprived of their rights to education and forced to stay home until government directives allow schools and colleges to resume. Although some institutions have opted to online learning, other institutions with no access to such systems have closed down.
3. Fundamental human rights implications
3.1. Impacts on fundamental rights of people
In order to protect human health, most member states of the European Union developed diverse measures to contain coronavirus pandemic. The restrictions ranged from the stay at home requirements, public gathering restrictions, and closing down educational institutions and businesses. Such restrictions have changed normal lives and impacted the enjoyment of essential rights established in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Measures developed included locking down residential areas with the significant transmission, schools closure, suspension of mass gathering, quarantine of infected individuals, and social distancing at the workplace. The measures have infringed different human rights like freedom of arts and science, rights to security and liberty, freedom of religion, conscience, and thought, freedom of movement and residence, and respect to private and family life. In addition, the rights of special groups like the disabled, older persons, and children have also been affected.
Controlling the spread of COVID-19 in overcrowded areas like refugee camps, nursing homes, and prisons are challenging and may deny individuals access to rights like health or even life. The reason being social distancing cannot be achieved in such facilities. In nursing homes, visits were suspended; however, human rights experts advised limitation to such restrictions. Some cases were reported in different facilities forcing nurses to stop going for work. This action deprived older people their rights to healthcare services. Others died due to nurses’ negligence, therefore, denying them their rights to life. Prisoners have been denied visits and others lacking legal representation. The judicial system has been disrupted, causing an imbalance in justice rights. In refugee camps, visitors have also been restricted, forcing legal and social services to stop. The coronavirus has had adverse effects on fundamental human rights, disrupting every aspect of individuals’ lives. Until today, people have access to limited rights, and essential rights being limited to control the spread of COVID-19.
3.2. Extent of restriction
Currently, there over 300,000 coronavirus cases in the UK and over 40,000 deaths. Germany has recorded over 190,000 cases and around 9,000 deaths. With the current statistics, countries are likely to extend restrictions on fundamental human rights like movement and social gatherings. In some UK areas, restaurants and pubs may be closed for further two weeks due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. However, in some parts in England, restrictions may be eased in July calling for reopening of pubs, restaurants and hotels. In Germany, lockdown has been extended in Gutersloh and restrictions eased in other like Warendorf. Most countries have begun easing coronavirus restrictions and people going back to normal lives. Cases are rising, and scientists have warned a second wave infection could hit the world. However, the world seems to be “tired” of coronavirus restrictions, especially regarding human rights. Most economies have shrunk, and people are struggling to meet basic needs more so in developing countries. Restrictions are slowly being lifted, and individuals are resuming ordinary life to recover from adverse effects brought by the pandemic. Therefore, I do not see further restrictions on fundamental rights of people being imposed since individuals have been stressed enough by the coronavirus, and need to recuperate the time and resources lost in protecting themselves from the COVID-19.
4. Conclusion and Outlook
Many individuals have suffered after the emergence of coronavirus a most of their rights were infringed. For months, people have been denied various rights, including freedom of movement, religion, education, and social gatherings. Such restrictions have been established to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, the pandemic is rising, and nations have already begun lifting restrictions like in some member states in the European Union. The reason being the virus has shrunk many economies and nations need to recover. For that reason, I do not see more restrictions being imposed, but would be lifted to enable people to resume with ordinary lives and recover resources strained by the virus.
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Pugh, Jonathan. “The United Kingdom’s Coronavirus Act, deprivations of liberty, and the right to liberty and security of the person.” Journal of Law and the Biosciences (2020):2-10
Yamin, Alicia Ely, and Roojin Habibi. “Human Rights and Coronavirus: What’s at Stake for Truth, Trust, and Democracy?” Health and Human Rights Journal 1 (2020):1-4
 FRA. 2020. “Fundamental Rights Implications in The Coronavirus Pandemic | Social Platform”. Www.Socialplatform.Org. https://www.socialplatform.org/news/fundamental-rights-implication-in-the-coronavirus-pandemic/.
 Anderson, Roy M., Hans Heesterbeek, Don Klinkenberg, and T. Déirdre Hollingsworth. “How will country-based mitigation measures influence the course of the COVID-19 epidemic?” The Lancet 395, no. 10228 (2020): 931-934.
 Charalampous, Melina. 2020. “Covid-19: What Impact Will It Have On Fundamental Rights? – The New Federalist”. The New Federalist. https://www.thenewfederalist.eu/covid-19-what-impact-will-it-have-on-fundamental-rights?lang=fr.
 Yamin, Alicia Ely, and Roojin Habibi. “Human Rights and Coronavirus: What’s at Stake for Truth, Trust, and Democracy?” Health and Human Rights Journal 1 (2020): 1-4
 Pugh, Jonathan. “The United Kingdom’s Coronavirus Act, deprivations of liberty, and the right to liberty and security of the person.” Journal of Law and the Biosciences (2020):2-10
 Gudi, Sai Krishna, and Komal Krishna Tiwari. “Preparedness and lessons learned from the novel coronavirus disease.” The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 11, no. 2 (2020): 108.