Episode 10 Governance – 10 Ways the Covid Response Harmed Society
Global political violence decreased in 2020-21; however, conflict dynamics worsened in some regions, including Africa, and violence against civilians and political coup d’etats appear to have increased. The world experienced the largest rollback of democracy and freedom in 2020 since the Second World War; most countries engaged in violations of democratic standards including abusive enforcement of restrictions and limitless states of emergency. There was an erosion of support in core democratic attitudes, a neglect of legal precedence and an expansion of executive power abuses. There was also a decline in government transparency and access to information that likely impacted public sector corruption. The crisis opened up new opportunities for the abuse of state resources for political and financial gain, although this is not well characterized in the academic literature. Covid policies adversely impacted basic human rights including economic and social rights, civil liberties and physical integrity rights. Vulnerable population groups who were most impacted by Covid restrictions had little voice shaping and influencing policy. New mass surveillance technologies deployed by governments circumvented pre-pandemic concerns about digital privacy and other civil liberties. Scientific advice and research expanded substantially. Early task forces and other formal mechanisms to input into government policy over-represented biomedical experts and concentrated power in a select number of scientific advisors. Other forms of expertise (e.g. mental health, ethics and economics) were excluded in many countries. Lockdown and other restrictive NPIs politicized science, challenged scientific norms and, according to some analyses, violated public health ethical frameworks. The pandemic also drove a massive increase in ‘fast’ scientific research, raising concerns about research quality, ethics and accuracy.
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About the Author
Kevin Bardosh is the Director of Collateral Global, a UK-based charity dedicated to researching the global impacts of Covid-19 policy responses and helping the world better balance societal trade-offs during future health emergencies. He has worked in more than 20 countries on infectious disease control programs (including Ebola and Zika), authored more than 50 peer-reviewed publications and edited two books. He is currently an Affiliate Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health, University of Washington USA and an Honorary Lecturer at the Edinburgh Medical School, University of Edinburgh UK.
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