On January 30, roughly one month after its initial discovery, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) an international public health crisis. Most countries followed suit but many authoritarian governments have taken advantage of the crisis, using it to limit civil liberties and strengthen their grips on power.
Just Security highlights how authoritarian regimes are limiting freedoms of assembly, expression, access to information and the right to participation. Despite the danger that Coronavirus poses, it is essential that emergency powers do not “insidiously creep over into the ordinary law.” Human Rights Watch also points out the ways in which open societies are better prepared for epidemic outbreaks than authoritarian regimes.
Iran’s response to the disease, as described in The New York Times, shows how the lack of a coordinated response has made the situation particularly grave.
It is essential that governments around the world work to combat the outbreak with all groups including civil society, public health and scientific organizations, and academia instead of using blanket restrictions, bans and other measures which limit human freedoms.