Commentary on the COVID-19 pandemic
Special Rapporteur on the right to health
At the General Assembly’s 75th session
This is the last report of Dainius Puras in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on the right to health. It was originally meant to be a wrap-up report with a retrospective look at the key right-to-health elements he explored during his tenure. But when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, he refocused the theme of the report.
The report does not provide a comprehensive analysis of COVID-19 and the right to health, but provides the expert’s formal comments on the pandemic, considered from a right-to-health perspective. The key themes of the Special Rapporteur’s work throughout his six-year tenure gave him an important lens through which to view the fragile socioeconomic and political institutions of the global community, which have been further undermined by COVID-19.
The Special Rapporteur examines the interdependence of rights, power imbalances, corruption, and an overemphasis of the biomedical paradigm and their contribution to COVID-19 spread and impact. He argues that the virus’ impact is determined more by public health policy, leadership, socio-economic inequality, systemic racism, and structural discrimination than by biological factors. A chapter on digital surveillance and immunity documentation expresses concern over the pervasive and invasive use of technology to govern everyday life.
The Special Rapporteur finds hope in the power of participatory democracy and solidarity and the ongoing strength and resilience of the collective humanity during challenging crises and unjust expressions of power. The most effective “vaccine” for global health challenges has been, and always will be, the full realization of all human rights, including the promotion of physical and mental health through the meaningful participation and empowerment of all people.
Other COVID-related statements and press releases
- Statement on the World Contraception Day, 26 September 2020: States must ensure access to contraceptives even during COVID-19 pandemic, 23 September 2020
- COVID-19 has exacerbated the historical neglect of dignified mental health care, especially for those in institutions: UN expert, 23 June 2020
- “COVID-19 measures must be grounded first and foremost on the right to health”, 10 June 2020
- United States: Authorities manipulating COVID-19 crisis to restrict access to abortion, say UN experts, 27 May 2020
- “Every worker is essential and must be protected from COVID-19, no matter what” – UN rights experts, 18 May 2020
- COVID-19 security measures no excuse for excessive use of force, say UN Special Rapporteurs, 17 April 2020
- Statement on the protection of people who use drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic, 16 April 2020
- ’Leave no one behind’ – Don’t forget your commitments in your response to the COVID-19 crises, UN expert urges States, 9 April 2020
- UN experts call for urgent action to mitigate heightened risks of violence against children, 7 April 2020
- ’Unacceptable’ – UN expert urges better protection of older persons facing the highest risk of the COVID-19 pandemic, 27 March 2020
- No exceptions with COVID-19: ‘Everyone has the right to life-saving interventions’ – UN experts say, 26 March 2020
- COVID-19 will not be stopped without providing safe water to people living in vulnerability – UN experts, 23 March 2020
- COVID-19: States should not abuse emergency measures to suppress human rights – UN experts, 16 March 2020