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Latest COVID-19 updates

    January 05, 2021

    The Israeli government must stop ignoring its international obligations as an occupying power and immediately act to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, said Amnesty International today.

    On 23 December, the Israeli Health Ministry began the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Having already given initial jabs to more than a 10th of its population, Israel has been hailed as the country that has to date achieved the widest vaccination coverage in proportion to its population size. However, the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan so far covers only citizens of Israel, including Israeli settlers living inside the West Bank, and Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. It excludes the nearly 5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, under Israeli military occupation.

    January 05, 2021

    By Tamaryn Nelson, Amnesty International’s Health Advisor. Please note that this op-ed was originally published on gal-dem in mid-Dercember. Since then Canada has started a vaccination program.

    The fight against COVID-19 has taken a huge leap forward this month. The historic rollout of the first vaccine is underway in the UK and the USA, while Canada and others are set to soon follow suit. For many the news represents light at the end of the tunnel as we may have the opportunity to put an end to this pandemic.

    But this is a global crisis that requires a global solution. The success of any vaccine will depend on it being fairly distributed and made available first to those most at risk – regardless of where they live, who they are, or what they can afford.

    We all have the right to be protected against COVID-19. But as wealthy countries hoard doses, the lifesaving potential of vaccines risks being undermined by inequality and corporate interests. 

    December 17, 2020

    Now more than ever, it’s important to know our rights when it comes to the police. Police violence has been a defining feature of 2020 - from the brutal killing of George Floyd in the US, to violent crackdowns on protests in Belarus, Hong Kong and Nigeria.  

    The COVID-19 pandemic has also fuelled police abuses around the world. As Amnesty International documents in a new report, law enforcement has often played far too prominent a role in what is fundamentally a public health issue.  

    In many countries police have abused their powers - carrying out mass arrests, beating or shooting people for violating public health restrictions, or using force against peaceful protesters. Many governments have used the pandemic as a pretext for repression, resulting in arrests and detentions of journalists, activists and health workers for sharing information, or for criticizing COVID-19 response measures. 

    December 16, 2020

    Abusive policing and excessive reliance on law enforcement to implement COVID-19 response measures have violated human rights and in some instances made the health crisis worse, Amnesty International said today. 

    In a new briefing, COVID-19 Crackdowns: Police Abuse and the Global Pandemic, the organization documented cases in 60 countries where law enforcement agencies committed human rights abuses in the name of tackling the virus. This includes cases where people were killed or severely injured for allegedly breaching restrictions, or for protesting against detention conditions. 

    In Iran for example, security forces reportedly used live ammunition and tear gas to suppress protests over COVID-19 safety fears in prisons, killing and injuring several people. In the first five days alone of a curfew in Kenya, at least seven people were killed and 16 hospitalized as a result of police operations. 

    December 09, 2020
    Rich countries have hoarded enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly 3 times over

    Nearly 70 poor countries will only be able to vaccinate one in ten people against COVID-19 next year unless urgent action is taken by governments and the pharmaceutical industry to make sure enough doses are produced, a group of campaigning organizations warned today.

    By contrast, wealthier nations have bought up enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021 if those currently in clinical trials are all approved for use. Canada tops the chart with enough vaccines to vaccinate each Canadian five times. Updated data shows that rich nations representing just 14 per cent of the world’s population have bought up 53 per cent of all the most promising vaccines so far.

    December 08, 2020

    A guide to Amnesty International's policy on COVID-19 vaccines

    The race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is gathering pace, and it seems like there may finally be light at the end of the tunnel. But as wealthy countries continue to hoard doses, the lifesaving potential of vaccines risks being undermined by inequality and corporate interests.  

    Now is the time to demand that COVID-19 vaccines are available to everyone - regardless of where they live, who they are, or what they can afford. 

    COVID-19 is a truly global crisis, and we will only solve it through global cooperation and respect for human rights. 

    If we get this right, we can end COVID-19 and build a more just and sustainable future. Here’s what needs to happen: 

    Human rights must be considered when deciding who to prioritize 

    November 18, 2020

    As the U.S. tops 250,000 deaths from COVID-19 today and President Trump continues to reject cooperation with President-Elect Biden’s team on the pandemic, Amnesty International USA Interim Executive Director Bob Goodfellow issued the below statement: 

    “The COVID-19 pandemic is a human rights crisis on an unprecedented scale. The U.S. government’s response to the pandemic has laid bare systemic disparities that have long undermined our human rights, including those to life and health, to and at work, to social security, and to be free from discrimination. From the very beginning, this crisis has affected everyone, but some have been hit much harder than others. Communities of color, frontline and low-wage workers, people with disabilities, older people, people who are undocumented, and those of us facing economic hardship are yet again dying and suffering in far greater numbers. 

    November 12, 2020

    Nearly eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Syrian government is failing to adequately protect its health workers, still lacks a robust response to the spread of the disease, and is refusing to provide transparent and consistent information about the country’s COVID-19 outbreak, Amnesty International said today.

    Relatives of COVID-19 patients, medical professionals and humanitarian workers have told Amnesty International that public hospitals have been forced to turn patients away due to a lack of beds, oxygen tanks and ventilators. In desperation, some residents have been forced to rent oxygen tanks and ventilators at exorbitant fees. Thousands of lives, including those of health workers, continue to be at risk with no transparent and effective information, or testing.

    November 05, 2020

    By Charlene Scharf, Health Network Co-Coordinator

    As we follow the crest of the second wave, and on the eve of the annual flu season, concerns are rising over the new pressures that will come to bear on the health care system. The vital healthcare workers across the health systems from long term care homes to hospitals and all in between have already faced unprecedented pressures and risks since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was clearly outlined in the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Report highlighting the alarming burden of disease and deaths from COVID-19 which discussed collected data globally in mid-August, 2020. It found that of the 52 national nursing associations in 50 countries, the infection rates for healthcare workers ranged from 1% to 30 % of all COVID-19 cases. The average rate was 10%. An alarming statistic from the study revealed “across 44 countries, there were 1097 deaths among nurses with the possibility of the actual deaths being much higher.”

    October 14, 2020

    States in the Americas must prioritize a human rights-based approach to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed widespread inequality and discrimination in the region, Amnesty International said in an open letter to the heads of state attending the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS).

    “The strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic has, in many countries of the Americas, been characterized by repressive measures and the unnecessary use of force. Added to the structural challenges and massive social and economic divides present prior to the pandemic, these measures only combine to perpetuate inequality and discrimination across the continent,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    October 14, 2020
    Spokespersons are available for interviews

    Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), specifically Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to continue pre-existing patterns of suppressing the right to freedom of expression in 2020, said Amnesty International today in a detailed statement.

    Across these states, flawed laws are being used to criminalize “false news” to summon, arrest, investigate and prosecute individuals who post content on social media about the pandemic or the government’s response to it.

    Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

    “The GCC states have failed to justify how these measures are necessary and proportionate for the protection of public health. Individuals are being subjected to harassment and intimidation simply for discussing the pandemic online, in a clear breach of their right to freedom of expression.

    October 13, 2020

    By Tamaryn Nelson, Amnesty International’s Researcher on the Right to Health

    “I called my therapist once in the middle of the chaos, but I felt I couldn't speak. It’s like opening a dam - if I let my feelings out, I don’t know if I’ll be able to hold them in again.”

    This is what  Annalisa*, a care home worker in Italy, told Amnesty International about the toll the pandemic has taken on her mental health. Like many health workers around the world,  Annalisa has put her own wellbeing on hold throughout the pandemic.

    But even during the peak of the crisis, when  Annalisa was preoccupied by immediate challenges like PPE shortages, she felt  the severity of the psychological impact. Annalisa said she developed a stammer and had nightmares, but staff shortages made it difficult to take time off.

    September 21, 2020

    Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, authorities in Venezuela, El Salvador and Paraguay have held tens of thousands of people in inadequate state-run quarantine centres without sufficient safeguards against human rights violations, in what could amount to ill-treatment and risk the detentions becoming arbitrary, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

    When protection becomes repression: Mandatory quarantines under COVID-19 in the Americas documents how the authorities in three countries have disproportionately held migrants, refugees, people returning to their countries of origin, and low-income communities in state-run quarantines, often in unsanitary and sometimes inhumane conditions without adequate food, water and medical care, which may amount to ill-treatment. The appalling conditions stand to make them counterproductive spaces where people are at risk of contracting COVID-19.

    September 14, 2020

    The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

    Prime Minister of Canada

    80 Wellington Street

    Ottawa, Ontario

    September 10, 2020

    Dear Prime Minister,

    We write this Open Letter, on behalf of 400,000 supporters of Amnesty International across the country, in times of considerable uncertainty, turmoil, injustice and fear; but also of mobilization, courage, determination, and possibility.

    Against that backdrop, you have indicated that your government’s upcoming Throne Speech will lay out a “plan to rebuild a stronger, more resilient Canada” and offer a “roadmap out of the pandemic towards a society that is fairer and more welcoming.” Central to those goals is the imperative to implement a genuinely transformative human rights agenda. This Throne Speech must acknowledge that respect for human rights will be central to all aspect of adopting laws, developing policy, making budgetary choices and taking action. Towards that vision, we urge you to take up the following seven recommendations:

    September 10, 2020

    By Josefina Salomón & Christopher Alford

    For decades, women human rights defenders across Latin America have been fighting an uphill battle to ensure sexual and reproductive rights, including access to safe abortion, are a reality for all. Over the last five months that battle has turned into a war.

    The figures have been shocking for a long time. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned them into a catastrophe, with a potential bleak future.

    Over the last five months, already high rates of violence against women have risen exponentially across the world. Countries such as Chile and Mexico have reported increases of more than 50 percent in calls to emergency helplines for women who are victims and survivors of violence.

    Experts worry about the many women who are trapped at home with their abusers without access to a phone, a computer or anyone they can contact for help or support.

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