by Amishi Agrawal and Paul Namkoong
This hub will provide editorials and research from a unique Japan-based perspective in its coverage of coronavirus news.
On December 31st, 2019, New Year’s celebrations around the world were particularly joyful and resolutions daringly brave. After all, it was not just a new year, but also the arrival of a whole new decade. However, amidst the holiday cheer and exchange of messages between loved ones, one particularly worrisome message was also sent.
The government of China notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) of a “mystery pneumonia-like illness” affecting dozens of people in the central port city of Wuhan. Several of the infected persons worked at one market in Wuhan, which was immediately shut down the next day. Only a few days later, on January 11th, Chinese state media reported the first known death from the mysterious virus. By the 23rd, the entire city of Wuhan was placed under effective quarantine, and Beijing cancelled country-wide events for the Lunar New Year. Regardless, it was not long before the virus crossed the borders of Wuhan and of China – the whole world would feel the rumbles of the gathering storm. By the 30th, the WHO declared a global health emergency. Within the first month of 2020, the virus spread to at least 18 other countries, affecting almost 10,000 people in all.
Now, after two more months, the spread of coronavirus continues unabated. More than a million people have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 50,000 have died. Time seems to be moving slower, as more than a third of the world’s population is under some form of restriction – ranging from extreme lockdowns, such as those in India and Kenya, to more voluntary measures being called for, like those in Japan. Schools and colleges have either shut down or moved to online classes. The biggest sports events, such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, have been postponed or cancelled. Cultural gatherings and landmarks, such as the Cannes Film Festival and the Louvre, along with political gatherings and election campaigns, have followed suit. 2020 was projected to be the harbinger of unprecedented growth and global progress, but as a global village, the world has never been more divided and petrified.
However, the most alarming and critical issues are not limited to event cancellations – the world is currently witnessing sweeping and widespread violations of human rights, the erosion of democratic institutions, and the slowdown of the global economy. The most vulnerable sections of society will have to bear the brunt of the suffering. All in all, the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 has left the world scampering; it has exposed the vulnerabilities in our global, national and local governance mechanisms, which were swept under the cover until now.
The International Law Training and Research Hub recognizes that, in the flurry of the pandemic, many human rights issues will go unnoticed and untreated. The scars inflicted by a global crisis, such as increased discrimination, will not disappear with the last disease scare -- left untreated, they fester into crippling weaknesses for the global community, with fewer viable solutions than before. In other words, the protection of the general populace should not come at the disproportionate suffering of smaller groups.
For these reasons, this hub will now provide editorials and research from a unique Japan-based perspective in its coverage of coronavirus news and developments. By inciting discussions around international law, human rights law, and other relevant branches, it aims to compile and publish a series of articles that critically analyse the aforementioned problems – readers are encouraged to submit suggestions and inquiries for members of the hub to comment and write about. Collaboration from writers, lawyers, and those from various corners of the world is critical to these unprecedented times. We must collectively make sense of, mitigate, and recover from coronavirus and all of its consequences.