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WHO Establishes COVID-19 Law Lab With Georgetown University

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organized by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.

The World Health Organization, along with the U.N. Development Program and Georgetown University, have established the COVID-19 Law Lab, a database designed to help nations craft well-designed rules to fight the pandemic and other health crises.

At the WHO COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the law lab database consists of the laws that countries have implemented in response to the pandemic, including state of emergency declarations, quarantine measures, disease surveillance, mask guidelines, physical distancing, and access to medications and vaccines.

He said the law lab will also contain research on legal frameworks for COVID-19 and analysis on the impact of public health laws. The database is designed to provide nations with guidelines for best practices when crafting legal responses to the pandemic.

Tedros said laws are important tools that governments have used in response to the pandemic, and it is important that they are well-designed. He said laws should not coerce but protect public health while protecting human rights. He said the database will continue to grow as more countries and themes are added.

Tedros said that as of Thursday, 15 million cases of COVID-19 and nearly 620,000 deaths have been reported to WHO. Intense transmission in a relatively small group of countries, with almost 10 million cases — two-thirds of all cases globally — are from 10 countries, and almost half of all cases reported so far are from just three countries — the United States, Brazil and India.

The U.S. continues to lead the world in total cases Thursday, surpassing the 4 million mark.

Tedros urged people around the world “to treat the decisions about where they go, what they do, and who they meet with as life-and-death decisions, because they are.”