coronavirus


Compulsory vaccination – the next step for Covid-19?

5 November 2020 by

Would you be first in the queue for the Covid-19 vaccine if and when it is rolled out? Or would you prefer to wait and appraise its effects on more pioneering citizens? With nearly a year of widespread media coverage of the coronavirus, it would not be surprising if a large percentage of an already fearful population exercised its right not to be subjected to what would be an assault and battery under English law: medical treatment without consent.

This is a syndrome, and it has a name. It is called “vaccine hesitancy”. The WHO describes this as “the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines”. Our willingness to avail ourselves of a future COVID vaccine is very much in doubt, and it is in doubt in high places.

Should a Covid-19 vaccine become available at scale, we cannot expect sufficient voluntary uptake.

Update: on Tuesday 17 November the Danish government finished considering a new law giving the government extended powers to respond to epidemics. Parts of this law that propose that:

People infected with dangerous diseases can be forcibly given medical examination, hospitalised, treated and placed in isolation.
The Danish Health Authority would be able to define groups of people who must be vaccinated in order to contain and eliminate a dangerous disease.
People who refuse the above can – in some situations – be coerced through physical detainment, with police allowed to assist. See the Danish newsletter here. In this country, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out mandatory inoculation, telling talkRADIO the government would ‘have to watch what happens and… make judgments accordingly’.

In July 2020 a group of philosophy and law academics presented written evidence to Parliament proposing that individuals should undergo vaccination as a

condition of release from pandemic-related restrictions on liberty, including on movement and association

The authors of the report base this proposal on two “parity arguments”:

a. If Covid-19 ‘lockdown’ measures are compatible with human rights law, then it is
arguable that compulsory vaccination is too (lockdown parity argument);
b. If compulsory medical treatment under mental health law for personal and public protection purposes is compatible with human rights law, then it is arguable that compulsory vaccination is too (mental health parity argument).

They contend that there is “an arguable case” for the compatibility of compulsory vaccination with human rights law.


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A bonanza of C-19 challenges

23 September 2020 by

With Baroness Hale’s recent criticism of the emergency measures taken by the government ringing in our ears, the following information from across the Atlantic might be of interest. The New England firm Pierce Atwood LLP has compiled a list of class actions related to COVID-19 in the United States, including all filed and anticipated cases up to 9 September 2020. Although their survey only covers litigation in the US, a similar trend may be predicted in this country, albeit on a smaller scale, even as the pandemic continues to unfold: indeed Alethea Redfern has made reference to such a likelihood in this week’s Round-Up. The authors of the US report observe that, despite “unprecedented court closures and changing procedural rules”,

class actions have steadily increased and are expected to expand across industries, jurisdictions, and areas of law. The impact of COVID-19 on business operations, consumer activity, and economic forecasts has made clear that the filings to date are only an early indication of what is to come.

The report provides a categorised summary of coronavirus-related class action litigation filed to date, highlighting the core allegations of each complaint. You will find the individual case citations in their post on Lexology.


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Challenge to legality of lockdown succeeds in New Zealand

21 August 2020 by

Andrew Borrowdale v Director-General of Health (First Respondent), the Attorney General (Second Respondent) and the New Zealand Law Society (Intervener) CIV-2020-485-194  [2020] NZHC 2090 

Even in times of emergency, … and even when the merits of the Government response are not widely contested, the rule of law matters.

Thus commenced a lengthy judgment by the New Zealand High Court, Wellington Registry, ruling that the first nine days of New Zealand lockdown were unlawful. The three judge panel found that

While there is no question that the requirement was a necessary, reasonable and proportionate response to the Covid-19 crisis at the time, the requirement was not prescribed by law and was therefore contrary to section 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.


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Face masks in Strasbourg

10 August 2020 by

 Tribunal Administrative de Strasbourg, N°2003058 M. A. et autres 

M. Simon, Juge des référés 

Ordonnance du 25 mai 2020 

This judgment was handed down over two months ago but its relevance to the current rules on face masks in the UK makes for interesting reading. It is available only in French.

A group of individuals brought a challenge to a decree issued by the mayor of Strasbourg obliging citizens over the age of eleven to wear facemarks in the streets and other areas, in particular the Grande-Ile (an island in the centre of Strasbourg), from 10am – 8pm, enforceable by a fine. The obligation was in force from May 21 to 2 June.


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LawPod UK: Dentists and Covid-19

6 July 2020 by

The spotlight during the pandemic has been on frontline workers in the medical profession. But if you think of it, the real hazards are to be found in the dentist’s surgery, where most interactions with patients involve an operation in the mouth, whether it be drilling, cleaning or extraction. Most of what a dentist or a dental hygienist does is what has become widely known as an AGP – “aerosol generating procedure”.

In the latest episode of Law Pod UK Rosalind English talks to the head of indemnity at the British Dental Association Len D’Cruz about the challenges facing the dental profession during lockdown and the even greater hurdles to be faced after dentists resumed practice on the 8th of June 2020.

Law Pod UK is available on Spotify, Apple PodcastsAudioboomPlayer FM,  ListenNotesPodbeaniHeartRadio PublicDeezer or wherever you listen to our podcasts.

Please remember to rate and review us if you like what you hear.

Travel between England and Wales

26 June 2020 by

This post is written in response to a comment by a reader, John Burton, of Rosalind English’s post on the latest in the Lockdown challenge launched by Simon Dolan in which Philip Havers QC has been instructed.

We don’t dispense legal advice from the UKHRB, but I thought this was a very interesting question and the editorial board felt it best to try to answer it in a separate post, so here it is, and many thanks to Henry Tufnell, one of our pupil barristers, soon to become one of our new tenants, for taking up the challenge.


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Latest on the Lockdown Challenge in the UK courts

9 June 2020 by

Update on 19 June: here are the government’s summary grounds of defence in which the government says that they did not order the schools to close; it was only a “request” (clause 73)

On 26 May, judicial review proceedings were launched in the High Court which not only challenged the lawfulness of the Lockdown Regulations as having been made “ultra vires” under the 1984 Public Health Act, but also claimed that they are disproportionate to the threat posed by Covid-19. Philip Havers QC of 1 Crown Office Row is acting for the claimant: see my post on the launch proceedings here.

This latest communication from the claimant has challenged the legality of the latest lockdown regulations, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) Regulations 2020, enforceable from Monday 8 June. (NB whilst there might be changes afoot in respect of people travelling from and within the EU, the current position remains as set out in the regulations which took force this week). The claimant observes that from many weeks of data collected since it first affected the UK, that Covid-19 overwhelmingly affects primarily the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, not the “vast majority of the working population.”

Young people and children are scarcely affected at all. Indeed, as of the latest available figures published by NHS England, we note that out of a population of 56 million people in England alone, since the outbreak started, Covid-19 has been cited on the death certificates of just 279 people who died in hospital in England under the age of 60 with no pre-existing health condition. *


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South African lockdown rules declared unlawful

4 June 2020 by

Reyno Dawid De Beer and Liberty Fighters Network (Applicants), Hola Ben Renaissance Foundation (Amicus Curiae) v The Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (Respondent) – Case No. 21542/2020 High Court of South Africa (Gauteng Division, Pretoria)

2 June 2020

“One need only to think about the irrationality in being allowed to buy a jersey but not undergarments or open- toed shoes “

Update: see my post on a ruling by the New Zealand High Court on the illegality of restrictive measures imposed by the government in the early days of lockdown.

A High Court judge in South Africa has just taken a stand on the ANC government’s reaction to the pandemic. He has ruled that some of the lockdown regulations do not satisfy the rationality test under public law, and that their encroachment and limitation on the freedoms set out in the South African Bill of Rights are not justified in a society based on “human dignity, equality and freedom as contemplated in Section 36 of the Constitution.”

He drew “clear inference” from the evidence, that once the government had declared a national state of disaster, the goal was to flatten the curve by way of retarding or limiting the spread of the virus (“all very commendable and necessary objectives”). However, “little or in fact no regard” was given to the extent of the impact of individual regulations on the constitutional rights of people and whether the extent of the limitation of their rights was justifiable or not.

His criticism was not that the government should have done nothing in the face of the epidemic, but that they took a cartwheel to crush a butterfly.

The starting point was not “how can we as government limit Constitutional rights in the least possible fashion whilst still protecting the inhabitants of South Africa?” but rather “we will seek to achieve our goal by whatever means, irrespective of the costs and we will determine, albeit incrementally, which Constitutional rights you as the people of south Africa,  may exercise”.


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C-19 damage: does international law hold any answers?

1 June 2020 by


What is international law for, if it cannot be enforced against the country responsible for breach? That is the question raised by a recent report documenting a series of steps by the Chinese Communist party to conceal from the World Health Organisation and the rest of the world the outbreak and human-to-human transmission of coronavirus. If we want a rules-based international order to mean anything, the authors of the report point out, it must be upheld.

In a world in which authoritarian states often act with impunity, it is tempting to forget that the rules-based international order places obligations on everyone. The Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) is no exception to this rule. International law – in the form of Treaties, Covenants and Charters – places obligations on China, just as much as it does on the democracies of the West.

This paper identifies a number of possible legal avenues by which the wider world can pursue the PRC for the damages inflicted by its response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

I will attempt a summary of the report in the following paragraphs.

The WHO and the International Health Regulations 2005

The International Health Regulations (IHR) were adopted by the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The IHR were designed to prevent the international spread of disease by placing obligations on states to prevent certain highly-transmissible diseases that were named and notifiable. The IHR were revised in 2005, in response to the 2003 SARS 1 outbreak, and entered into force in 2007.


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The Round Up: Pilot Contact Tracing and a Points-Based Immigration Bill

18 May 2020 by

This afternoon, health secretary Matt Hancock made a statement in the Commons updating the house on the government’s response to the crisis.

The health secretary announced that anyone in the UK aged five and over who has coronavirus symptoms will be eligible for a test. From today, recognised symptoms include the loss of smell and taste, as well a persistent cough and a high temperature. Hancock confirmed for the first time that the government has recruited over 21,000 contact tracers, including 7,500 health care professionals, to manually trace and get in contact with anyone who has tested positive.

In addition, he offered a degree of clarification in relation to the government’s new contact tracing app. The function of the app is to alert people of the need to self-isolate if they have come into proximity with an individual who reported coronavirus symptoms.


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The latest critique of the Coronavirus Act 2020

13 May 2020 by

The UKHRB has been at pains to cover all aspects of the CA2020, the various sets of regulations and guidance made under it, in a balanced manner. You will recall that I drew attention to two papers published by Lord Sandhurst (Guy Mansfield QC, formerly of 1 Crown Office Row) and others raising concerns about the constitutionality and legality of these regulations: “Pardonable in the heat of crisis- but we must urgently return to the rule of law.” , followed by “Pardonable in the Heat of Crisis – building a solid foundation for action”


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Digital Contact Tracing Updates from the Human Rights Committee

11 May 2020 by

The Human Rights Committee, reviewing NHSX’s current digital contact tracing app architecture, has recommended that the government’s current privacy assurances are not sufficient to protect data privacy and that legislation must be passed to ensure that. This echoes Professor Lilian Edwards’ call for primary legislation to ensure privacy rights are protected. These recommendations are given special significance NHSX’s choice to adopt the controversial and arguably less secure “centralised” model (an explanation of the different contact tracing models and Prof Edwards’ suggested legislation can be found here). 


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