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Perhaps not always visible to or tangible for the general public, national, European and international law plays an important role in dealing with public health crises such as the global Covid-19/coronavirus pandemic and similar health threats. ACELG/ACES researcher Anniek de Ruijter specialises in health law and these days she is a sought after analyst and commentator. In a series of interviews, journal articles and news articles she and her collaborators (including ACELG colleagues Maria Weimer, Filipe Brito Bastos and Hannah van Kolfschooten) clarify what role law plays in dealing with public health and health risks on a national and international level.

photo: National Institutes of Health (USA)

This overview lists media contributions published since mid-January 2020. It will be updated with future media coverage.

31 March 2020
(Hannah van Kolfschooten, Bastiaan Wallage)
Financieel Dagblad, 'Overheid, pas op met gezondheidsdata en massasurveillance'

The authors of this op-ed argue that mobile phone networks shouldn't unquestioningly share meta data with governments, as privacy remains a human right, even during the corona crisis.

30 March 2020
(Hannah van Kolfschooten)
NRC, 'Technologische hulp uit China is niet gratis'

In this article Hannah van Kolfschooten argues that the use of Chinese algorithms for diagnosing corona patients by Dutch hospitals is dangerous for patients’ privacy. The Chinese AI company requires hospitals to share data of Dutch patients. She proposes a new EU legal framework for AI in the health care sector.

27 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Roel Beetsma, Brian Burgoon, Francesco Nicoli, Frank Vandenbroucke)
De Morgen, 'Europese solidariteit in de strijd tegen epidemieën is nodig, het draagvlak bij de bevolking lijkt er te zijn' (access only with account)

In line with previous publications, the authors of this op-ed argue that European solidarity in addressing epidemics and the creation of a common storage system for relevant medication, vaccines and medical equipment  is necessary to succesfully address epidemics.

26 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Roel Beetsma, Brian Burgoon, Francesco Nicoli, Frank Vandenbroucke)
Politico, 'Give the EU more power to fight epidemics – When countries put themselves first, no one wins'

In this article the authors argue that "creating a common storage system would allow the EU to have a central supply of medicines and equipment that is larger than any country could have individually" and that "Europe needs a central policy for infectious diseases — both in the interest of Europeans’ health and to ensure that countries do not unjustly invoke public health to evade internal market principles and undermine European solidarity."

26 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Roel Beetsma, Brian Burgoon, Francesco Nicoli, Frank Vandenbroucke)
VOX EU Policy Portal, 'EU solidarity in fighting COVID-19: State of play, obstacles, citizens’ attitudes, and ways forward'

The authors argue that "an initiative to create centralised control of medical countermeasures at the EU level would solve many coordination issues in times of crisis." But they also point out that "a unified European response faces a number of legal and political obstacles." A survey conducted before the COVID-19 outbreak to understand EU citizens’ attitudes towards a joint solidarity programme suggests considerable support already exists for an effective policy framework centralising the procurement, stockpiling, and allocation of medicines.

26 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
Stuk Rood Vlees podcast, 'Aflevering 63 – De rechtsstaat in tijden van corona, met Anniek de Ruijter'

In this podcast Anniek de Ruijter speaks about the tension between protecting public health and safeguarding human rights.

14 March 2020
(Martin McKee, Anniek de Ruijter and Mark Flear)
The Guardian, ‘Brexit threatens UK’s ability to respond to a future pandemic

In this article, the three researchers explain the likely negative consequences Brexit might have on British society in case of widespread infectious diseases, pandemics and other mass health crises, because the UK will no longer be able to rely on the EU’s joint response mechanisms, such as bulk buying medicines and vaccines. The researchers also explain possible alternatives for the UK to mitigate these consequences of Brexit.

13 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Maria Weimer)
EU Law Live, ‘The Covid-19 crisis: lessons from Risk Regulation for EU leaders

Weimer and de Ruijter argue that the Covid-19 crisis puts Europe’s capacity to govern both effectively and legitimately to a test. It sheds light on the unique features of the European integration project (such as its commitment to unity in diversity), as well as unleashes some of its darker tendencies. Like in other situations of uncertainty and political and economic upheaval, this crisis can be both a threat to and an opportunity for European integration.

12 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
VPRO Bureau Buitenland, ‘Wat hebben we aan de Europese Unie bij deze pandemie?’

In this radio ‘roundtable, ÁCELG researcher Anniek de Ruijter joins Dutch MEP Jan Huitema and EU Commission spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker to discuss the role of the European Union in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and other international threats to public health.

7 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
Politico, ‘Europe fails to help Italy in coronavirus fight,’

As one of the interviewees in this article, Anniek de Ruijter explains the role of the EU’s ‘Health Threat Decision’ taken in 2013 in order to improve preparedness across the EU and strengthen the capacity to coordinate response to health emergencies. She also explains that “the EU was best positioned to serve as a coordinator and let national and local governments work directly with citizens.”

5 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Constance Schultsz, Chris Pell, Danny de Vries, )
University of Amsterdam, ‘UvA scientists explain the implications of the coronavirus,’

As one of the interviewees, Anniek de Ruijter explains the relationship between the EU and Dutch rule of law and government action in emergency situations.

4 March 2020
(Mark Flear, Martin McKee, Anniek de Ruijter)
The Telegraph, ‘Coronavirus shows future access post-Brexit to the EU’s health security system remains vital,’

In this article the three researchers argue that the UK should seek to continue its access to EU’s health security system, especially in order to enable the UK to better deal with emergency health situations.

14 February 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
Het Parool, ‘Mag je je verzetten tegen quarantaine? En nog 5 juridische vragen over het coronavirus’

De Ruijter explains the role and competences of the WHO in global health crises. She also clarifies the legal powers of (the Dutch) government to impose compulsory quarantine.

4 February 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
University of Amsterdam, 'Five legal questions about the coronavirus',

Anniek de Ruijter speaks about the legality of state compulsory measures in emergency situations, about the adequacy of the Dutch Public Health Act and the UvA’s interdisciplinary ‘Global Health’ research priority area.

31 January 2020
(Mark Flear, Martin McKee, Anniek de Ruijter)
British Medical Journal, 'Coronavirus shows how UK must act quickly before being shut out of Europe’s health protection systems'

The three researchers put the UK’s position post-Brexit into context of the EU’s relationship with the WHO as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland regarding collaboration on joint health care measures.

28 January 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Hannah van Kolfschooten)
NRC, 'Denk aan rechten bij aanpak virus'

In this article in Dutch newspaper NRC, Hannah van Kolfschooten and Anniek de Ruijter place the seemingly far-reaching measures by the Chinese government in a legal context.

14 January 2020
(Filipe Brito-Bastos, Anniek de Ruijter)
European Journal of Risk Regulation, ‘Break or Bend in Case of Emergency?: Rule of Law and State of Emergency in European Public Health Administration’

In this article (coincidentally prepared already before the emergence of the Covid-19 health crisis), Brito Bastos and de Ruijter explore the impact of the role of the EU administration in responding to emergencies in terms of (changes to) the rule of law. They conclude that public health emergencies can bend and even break rule of law requirements for the EU administration, and advocate for more legal guidance on proportionality, which may offer better safeguards suited for protecting the rights of affected parties.