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Commentary on the COVID-19 pandemic

16 July 2020
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