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Public health law and ethics: A rapid response to COVID-19

Press release issued: 10 July 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is unquestionably the most significant event to occur within global public health in (at least) a generation. It will present serious challenges globally - and well into the future. Thanks to a series of rapid response funds, introduced by the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute (EBI), professors from the Centre for Health, Law, and Society have been able to quickly identify, and start to tackle, challenges to the pursuit of human rights, good governance and social justice.

Professor John Coggon has been awarded funding for a project to track and analyse COVID-19 related developments in law and policy as they apply to health professionals. The aim is to generate clear, accessible understanding and analysis to inform and engage in ongoing future planning, practice and public debate.

This is both to serve key workers who are performing their roles under extraordinary circumstances, and to keep under review the exercise of powers that naturally give rise to concerns about social justice, the protection of human rights, and respect for the rule of law.

A series of explanatory materials has already been developed to promote understanding of legal and regulatory measures instituted in the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be launched in July. 

Professor Judy Laing has been awarded Ethics and Social Science funding to conduct a three-month research project into the implications of COVID-19 in detention settings. The project will specifically look at strengthening the monitoring of places of detention to identify how restrictions during lockdown have impacted on the health and wellbeing of detainees.

As Principal Investigator, Judy is working with colleagues Professor Rachel Murray and Debra Long in the Human Rights Implementation Centre, and the UK National Preventive Mechanism, to review the impact of COVID on how NPM members have been adapting their methodologies in relation to the monitoring of places of detention.

Professor Keith Syrett, in collaboration with Professor Helen Lambert (Population Health Sciences), helped establish a rapid response fund to look at Covid-19 from a global public health perspective and promote the welfare of vulnerable communities around the world.

The successful research projects are varied, covering a wide range of settings from Zimbabwe to Georgia and looking at how COVID-19 impacts on issues such as self-harm in Sri Lanka, sustainable development in Somalia/Somaliland and mental health and sleep patterns in children and adolescents.

Further information

For more information on the Centre for Health, Law, and Society, visit

For more information about the Law School’s response to COVID-19, visit

If you want to help shape a post-COVID world, find out more about the related student opportunities.

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