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Latest COVID-19 updates

    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 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 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 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 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.

    August 29, 2020

    “It is especially disturbing to see that some governments are punishing workers who voice their concerns about working conditions that may threaten their lives. Health workers on the frontline are the first to know if government policy is not working, and authorities who silence them cannot seriously claim to be prioritising public health.”
    Sanhita Ambast, Amnesty International’s Researcher and Advisor on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

    Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic in March 2020, health and essential workers have played an extraordinary role in the response to it. Across the world, they have put their health and well-being at risk, working in very difficult circumstances and often with very little support, to ensure that we are able to access the essential services we need, including health care, food and other nutritional supplies, and emergency services.

    August 09, 2020
    Aerial view of the Amazon forest with a river running in the middle of it
    By Nadino Calapucha, head of communications at COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon basin)   The Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon and across the Americas have centuries of experience facing deadly threats.

    For over 500 years we have faced invasions, the loss of our ancestral lands, ethnic and socioeconomic discrimination that has led to displacement, illnesses, death, and the constant threat of cultural and physical extermination.

    For decades, large companies and governments have offered us what they call "economic development" in exchange for the extraction of irreplaceable natural resources. In reality, those uncontrolled practices have enslaved us and contaminated our lands, in a habitat that is of vital importance not only for the Peoples who live together there but for the whole planet.

    July 14, 2020

    By Tanya O'Carroll, Director of Amnesty Tech

    Since the start of the pandemic, an army of companies - from the Big Tech players down to start-ups most of us haven’t heard of yet - rushed to be part of the Covid-19 response. This is the transformative ‘disruption’ to the healthcare sector they’ve been betting on - it just arrived a little differently than expected. But while they look set to cash in during the crisis, it could come at a terrible cost to our privacy.  

    June 24, 2020

    A human rights response to COVID-19 must include an intersectional approach which recognizes the specific impacts of the pandemic on LGBTI people, and the need for specific actions to ensure that the pandemic response doesn't lead to discrimination and further inequalities.

    Everyone is impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. But we aren’t all impacted in the same ways or to the same extent. Multiple and intersecting identities including gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, disability, age, family status, employment status, and immigration status, all shape how a person experiences the pandemic.

    LGBTI people face significant discrimination which leads to barriers to accessing healthcare services; high rates of homelessness, poverty, and social isolation; and high rates of harassment and violence. The pandemic has further exacerbated these inequalities.

    May 29, 2020

    “Saying thank you is not enough. Governments must take action to ensure their basic rights and safety are never put at such horrendous risk again.”
    Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    As the crisis in Ontario and Quebec’s long-term care homes dominates the new headlines this week, the need to listen to, support and protect health care workers in all sectors has never been more urgent.

    More than half of the people in the world who have tested positive for COVID-19 live in the Americas. Several countries in the region are entering their deadliest phases in the coming weeks. Health and social care infrastructures are weak in several countries. Some governments, already marked by repressive measures, are further restricting rights and freedoms, and even denying the pandemic or its diverse impact on communities.

    May 27, 2020
    Cracks in the “Canada Brand”: profit before people creates high-risk conditions for communities made vulnerable by the pandemic 

    Workers’ concerns ignored at Canadian meat packing plants and hundreds made sick. Amazon employees fired for speaking out about conditions on warehouse floors. Energy workers expected to continue working despite outbreaks at mine sites and an inability to physically distance. Construction workers unable to wash their hands on the job because there is no running water. Mining considered an essential service that employs workers from across the country while small communities struggle to keep away visitors. These are some of the dire stories being shared across Canada as the pandemic reveals the impact of business decisions on workers and communities. While the situation varies from community to community, and some companies have taken steps to suspend operations in order to protect workers and communities, there is growing concern that not all companies are truly respecting human rights through this crisis.

    May 26, 2020

    10 of the worst government responses

    There are no easy solutions to the COVID-19 crisis – but it’s clear what doesn’t work. This pandemic has elicited truly jaw-dropping responses from some governments, marked by opportunism, bizarre science and total contempt for human rights.

    Here’s a guide to how not to handle a pandemic - courtesy of some of the most powerful people in the world.

    May 22, 2020

    Updated May 22, 2020

    Shocking footage of Rohingya women, men and children being rescued off rickety boats after dangerous sea voyages is still being broadcast around the world.

    According to reports, more boats – carrying hundreds more Rohingya people – are still stranded at sea and in urgent need of rescue. These vessels have nowhere to land, as countries ignore international obligations to allow safe disembarkation, using COVID-19 restrictions as a pretext.

    These policies raise the risk of repeating the dangerous mistakes of 2015, when the break-up of trafficking networks left thousands of Rohingya stranded in Southeast Asian waters, with likely hundreds losing their lives.

    Here, Amnesty International explains why the Rohingya are still risking everything to flee crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh and apartheid conditions in Myanmar.

    We also explain how countries in the region can help, and why the Rohingya shouldn’t be sent back to Myanmar.

    Who are the Rohingya people?

    May 19, 2020

    By David Griffiths, Director of the Office of the Secretary General, and Sarah Jackson, Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

    There are weeks where decades happen. These are those weeks.