COVID-19 and prison health

On this page you can find helpful information and verified resources about COVID-19 and prison health.

The page is continuously updated

The International Corrections and Prisons Association (a verified resource)  

Worldwide Prison Health Research & Engagement Network (WEPHREN) (a verified resource)

Preparedness, prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention. 

Source – WHO

Interim Guidance. COVID-19: Focus on persons deprived of their liberty.

Source – IASC – Inter-Agency Standing Committee

Position Paper COVID-19 preparedness and responses in prisons

SourceUNODC

COVID-19 pandemic: urgent steps are needed to protect the rights of prisoners in Europe. Statement by Commissioner Dunja Mijatović

SourceCouncil of Europe

Statement of principles relating to the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty

SourceCouncil of Europe

Coronavirus: Healthcare and human rights of people in prison

SourcePenal Reform International

Appeal by European NGOs involved in the field of prison health and in the defence of the right to health protection for prisoners

COVID-19 in prison: the Council of Europe must lead on policies to address the Covid-19 challenges

SourceCouncil of Europe

COVID-19: Council of Europe anti-torture Committee issues “Statement of principles relating to the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty”

SourceCouncil of Europe

COVID-19 population management strategy for prisons

Source – www.gov.uk

UNODC, WHO, UNAIDS and OHCHR joint statement on COVID-19 in prisons and other closed settings

Source – UNAIDS

PRI educational posters for criminal justice practitioners to reduce the spread of COVID-19

Source:  penalreform.org

Russian 1,2,3

Tajic 1,2

Kazakh 

Understanding COVID-19 in secure settings 

Infection prevention and control and surveillance for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in prisons in EU/EEA countries and the UK

COVID-19, Prisons and Drug Policy: Global Scan March-June 2020 

Source – https://www.hri.global/

 

Helpful information about COVID-19. Continuously updated.

On this page you can find helpful information and verified resources about COVID-19.

The page is continuously updated

Resources:

UNAIDS

WHO – World Health Organization 

THE UNION – a global union to fight Tuberculosis

ASAM – American Society of Addiction Medicine

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

International Drug Policy Consortium

United Nations – Office on drugs and crimes

Life4me+ (a page with useful information)

World Hepatitis Alliance

IAS

Inter Agency Standing Committee

Johns Hopkins University 

IOM International (migrants)

 

The situation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Kazakhstan

Ministry of Health

A map with regions

Ukraine

Ministry of Health of Ukraine

National Health Service of Ukraine

Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine

Kyrgyzstan

Official website on Coronavirus

Website of the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic

Republican Headquarters Telegram Channel to Prevent Coronavirus Infiltration

Republican Coronavirus Prevention Headquarters Facebook page

Republican Coronavirus Prevention Headquarters Instagram Page

Russia

Official website about Coronavirus

Moldova

A map with regions

Turkmenistan

Saglyk.org – credible public health information in the Turkmen language

 

Articles on topics:

Common info

Addressing Mental Health and Psychosocial Aspects of COVID-19 Outbreak

Source – https://interagencystandingcommittee.org

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: When and how to use masks

Source – WHO

COVID-19 and People Who Live with HIV

COVID-19 Drug Interactions .  Source – www.covid19-druginteractions.org

PEPFAR Technical Guidance in Context of COVID-19 Pandemic. Source – PEPFAR

Risk assessment and contingency planning tool for health systems functions and to ensure continuity of TB and HIV services . SourceCenter For Health Policies and Studies

A statement “Flatten inequality: human rights in the age of COVID-19” 

SourceCanadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

No increased coronavirus risk for people with well-controlled HIV say WHO, but how will health systems cope?

Sourceaidsmap 

EATG Rapid Assessment COVID-19 crisis’ Impact on PLHIV and on Communities Most Affected by HIV

Source – European AIDS Treatment Group 

Q&A on COVID-19, HIV and antiretrovirals

Source – WHO

COVID-19 and People Living with HIV: Frequently Asked Questions

Source – HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), Prevention Access Campaign, and partners

Resources on COVID-19 Support, Advocacy, Gender and HIV

Source – The Well Project

Lessons from HIV prevention for preventing COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries

Source – UNAIDS

Condoms and lubricants in the time of COVID-19

Source – UNAIDS

The global impact of COVID-19 and strategies for mitigation and suppression

Source – Imperial College London, UK

The Potential Impact of the COVID-19 Epidemic on HIV, TB and Malaria in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Source – Imperial College London, UK


COVID-19 and prisons

The International Corrections and Prisons Association  

Preparedness, prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention.  Source – WHO

Interim Guidance. COVID-19: Focus on persons deprived of their liberty.

Source – IASC – Inter-Agency Standing Committee

Position Paper COVID-19 preparedness and responses in prisons

SourceUNODC

COVID-19 pandemic: urgent steps are needed to protect the rights of prisoners in Europe. Statement by Commissioner Dunja Mijatović.

SourceCouncil of Europe

 


COVID-19 and  People Who Use Drugs 

COVID-19 guidance for PWUD.  Source – www.harmreduction.org

Syringe Services and Harm Reduction Provider Operations During the COVID-19 Outbreak.

Source – www.harmreduction.org

How Harm Reducers Cope with the Covid-19 Pandemic in Europe?

Source – www.drogriporter.hu

Interim Guidance for COVID-19 and Persons with HIV. Source – www.aidsinfo.nih.gov

Information on the new virus, guidance for people living with HIV and answers to frequently asked questions from Dr Michael Brady

Source – www.tht.org.uk

Guidance for People Who Use Substances on COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus)

Sourcewww.inpud.net

Suggestions about treatment, care and rehabilitation of people with drug use disorder in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

SourceUNODC

COVID-19 HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for people who use drugs

SourceUNODC

Reducing the Harms of a Broken System: Social Justice Demands During COVID-19

Sourcedrogriporter.hu

Statement by the UN expert on the right to health on the protection of people who use drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sourceharmreductioneurasia.org

Harm Reduction Responses to COVID-19 in Europe

Source – drogriporter.hu


COVID-19 and Tuberculosis

COVID-19 Coronavirus And Tuberculosis: We Need A Damage Control Plan. Source – www.forbes.com.

New diseases and old threats: lessons from tuberculosis for the COVID-19 response.

Source – www.theunion.org.

WHO HQ Information note on TB and COVID 19

Source – WHO


COVID-19 and Hepatitis 

 

CLINICAL INSIGHTS FOR HEPATOLOGY AND LIVER TRANSPLANT PROVIDERS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Source – AASLD – American Association for the study of Liver Diseases 

WHO HQ Q&A on COVID 19, HIV and antiretrovirals

Source – WHO


COVID-19 and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

The COVID-19 Outbreak: Potential Fallout for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

Source – www.guttmacher.org


COVID-19 and youth

Youth guide

Source – www.dance4life.com


COVID-19 and SRHR 

SRHR and Gender

Source – Share-net International


COVID-19 and Sex workers

Sex workers’ response


COVID-19 and LGBT

What gay men can teach us about surviving the coronavirus

Source – www.theguardian.com


Reports from AIDS2020 

COVID-19 AND HIV: A TALE OF TWO PANDEMICS

Source – IAS

EU launches the Call for Proposals “EU Solidarity with Russian Civil Society”

The European Union Delegation to Russia published the Call for Proposals “EU Solidarity with Russian Civil Society – Protecting vulnerable groups and disproportionately affected by COVID-19” with an overall budget of € 6 million.

The objective of this call is to enable Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to function without interruptions at a time when their usual funding mechanisms are curtailed by the worsened economic situation, while ensuring continued and enhanced provision of services to the most vulnerable groups and those disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

COVID-19 is a worldwide public health emergency severely affecting citizens, societies and economies. The numbers of infections and confirmed cases worldwide is growing and socio-economic shocks are negatively affecting people’s incomes, physical and mental wellbeing, and the social integrity of communities as a whole. COVID-19 outbreak is adding pressure on the social service delivery systems, and exacerbating the vulnerabilities of affected populations, especially those who are in most need. 

Support through experienced CSOs is essential to ensure that these socio-economic impacts on vulnerable groups are mitigated. Yet, many CSOs are also severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis and the conduct of their important activities as well as their organisational survival is put at a high risk as donations drop.

Any grant requested under this call for proposals must fall between the minimum of € 400 000 and maximum of € 600 000 amounts. The maximum percentage of the EU grant must fall under 90 % of the total eligible costs of the action. Nevertheless, the grant may cover the entire eligible costs of the action if this is deemed essential to carry it out, subject to the justification of full financing by the applicant (Ref. to article 1.3 of the Guidelines for applicants).

If the applicant is from the Russian Federation, it may act individually. If the Applicant is not from the Russian Federation, presence of at least one Russian co-applicant is obligatory.

The deadline for submission of Concept Notes is Monday, June 29, 2020.

More information for CSOs to apply for project funding is available at EuropeAid/168597/DH/ACT/RU . To apply to this call for proposals organisations must register in PADOR and submit their application in PROSPECT.  

Clarification requests and questions may be sent by e-mail no later than June 08, 2020 to the following e-mail address, indicating clearly the reference of the Call for proposals: 

NEAR-TENDER-168597@ec.europa.eu

The ViiV Healthcare Global HIV and COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund

ViiV Healthcare announced £3 million global fund to research the impact of COVID-19 on the HIV community and fill gaps in prevention, treatment and care during the pandemic.

ViiV Healthcare announced the creation of the Global HIV and COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. The £3 million fund will make available critical financial resources for research projects to study the medical and scientific impact COVID-19 is having on people living with HIV and community-based grants to help address specific challenges to the HIV community created by the global pandemic.

The ViiV Healthcare Global HIV and COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund will be divided equally between two programmes and grants will be available through a request for proposal (RFP) process. The Research Emergency Response Fund will make available up to £1.5 million to support scientific research about the impact of COVID-19 on people living with HIV. The Community Emergency Response Fund will make available up to £1.5 million to support community-based activities that address the specific challenges faced by people living with HIV during this pandemic.

Research Emergency Response Fund
To help improve the understanding and management of the COVID-19 pandemic in people living with HIV, ViiV Healthcare is inviting research proposals within three priority areas of interest that include epidemiology and real-world data, healthcare systems management initiatives in COVID-19 environments, and biomarkers indicative of disease susceptibility, severity, and progression.

Successful proposals will be awarded grants from the £1.5 million Research Emergency Response Fund to undertake independent research through ViiV Healthcare’s existing Investigator Sponsored Studies (ISS) programme.  Requests for proposals will be open from 27 April through 18 May. The proposals will be reviewed by an internal ViiV Healthcare scientific panel and successful applicants notified by 5 June.

Community Emergency Response Fund
ViiV Healthcare will seek applications from community organisations to support their work in addressing the specific challenges that have arisen for people living with HIV or affected by HIV as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the £1.5 million Community Emergency Response Fund, grants will be made available to support ongoing access to critical HIV prevention, care and outreach services, differentiated models of service delivery, short term payments for critical community staff, and community monitoring and feedback on the impact of COVID-19 to HIV services and support.  The Community Emergency Fund is not intended for the purchase of pharmaceutical products.

The Community Emergency Response Fund will support existing grantees of ViiV Healthcare’s Positive Action or Government Affairs (GA) or Global Public Health (GPH). Requests for proposals will be open from 27 April through 15 May. The proposals will be reviewed by an internal ViiV Healthcare panel and successful applicants notified by 25 May.

More information here.

At our own risk. EECA’s reponse to COVID-19.

Yuri Avdeev, Chairman of the Board of the Chelyabinsk City Public Organization “Independent Research Center “There is an opinion”, Russia

For your information:

The independent research center “There is an opinion” has been working in the field of prevention of socially dangerous diseases and research of various aspects of social life since 2000. The Center works to reduce the spread of socially dangerous diseases, such as HIV infection, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections; provides assistance in overcoming psychological and communication problems (difficulties in communication, self-confidence); assistance in disclosing personal qualities, self-fulfillment of personality; socio-psychological, informational assistance to people living with HIV and TB, as well as their significant environment.

At present, the “There is an opinion” centre is the largest operator of rapid HIV testing in the Urals. Every year 19,000 residents of the Chelyabinsk Region and its border areas become clients of the programme. The main target groups are men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people (TG), people who use drugs (PWUD) and the general population.

Difficulties caused by the virus

For five years our organization has been working in the context of HIV prevention with MSM/TG. Weekly on Fridays, two teams of specialists (psychologist + nurse) worked in two nightclubs for LGBT people, carrying out rapid HIV testing, pre- and post-test counseling, distributing prevention information materials, condoms and lubricants, and accompanying identified clients to be registered with the AIDS Center. Due to the announcement of the self-isolation regime, nightclubs are closed, so we are no longer able to continue our normal work at their base. The testing room is also closed.

Unfortunately, this situation paralyzed the work of our organization and most of the activities were stopped. Many people go online, but we should understood that online counselling, for example, will not replace HIV testing and the issuance of condoms and lubricants.

Innovations

On April 7th, at our own risk, we reopened the testing room in the evening, because we received a request from clients for testing and obtaining condoms and lubricants. The cooperation with the AIDS Center helped us to do this. In addition, today we are delivering ARVT drugs for HIV+ patients in Chelyabinsk, including MSM. We have received special passes for being in the city.

We have noticed that those who receive ART at home are even happy about it, because now they do not have to take a ticket and wait in line. However, nightclub visitors are not very happy with these innovations, but the most motivated members of the community themselves come to the testing room to receive HIV prevention and testing.

In our work we try to follow all the necessary recommendations of the regional Government: the reception is held by appointment; social distance is respected; precautions are taken – specialists work with masks, gloves and glasses, the client is given a mask; surfaces are wiped with a disinfector; washing of the room takes place every 2 hours.

Of course, statistics for our activities have fallen. Whereas we used to serve up to an average of 100 MSM/TG per month, now the number has dropped by almost 5 times.

What’s next?

Today we are thinking about self-testing. We only work with blood tests, and today it is not the most convenient option. So we’re negotiating with donors to buy saliva tests.

EECA’s reponse to COVID-19

Alexander Chebin, project coordinator at the Regional Public Foundation “New Life”, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

For reference

“New Life” Foundation has been working in Yekaterinburg in the field of AIDS prevention and control, assistance to different categories of population since 2011. The key groups are (ex) prisoners, migrants, drug users, sex workers, people affected by HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis.

Difficulties due to the virus

Currently, we have suspended our activities on fast HIV and hepatitis outreach testing, activities in rehabilitation centers, penal inspections, police departments, federal enforcement agency system and other organizations.

Since the introduction of the country’s self-isolation regime, representatives of our key groups have found themselves in new realities – for example, their level of anxiety has significantly increased, including with regard to treatment and care. Also we have received many requests for psychological support. Due to changing economic circumstances, people have developed a lot of fears – they are afraid of losing their jobs and uncertainty in the future. We have already analyzed our work during 2 weeks of self-isolation. The number of requests through the means of communication increased several times. Our employees conduct consultations, provide psychological support and accompany participants “by phone”, through various messengers. This is especially important for people released from prisons, who do not have the skills to apply to government agencies using Internet resources.

Innovations

Fortunately, in a pandemic, our work does not stop. However, due to the virus and quarantine measures, we had to go online and interact with our participants remotely, through communications channels.

Due to the new rules of patient’s admission, the management of the AIDS Centre decided to involve volunteers to help in the delivery of life-saving antiretroviral therapy. Thus, since March 30, our employees have been actively involved in this process. Our two staff members take calls and consult people on how to register delivery. With the help of the Foundation’s car with a driver health workers are delivered to clients. Also, 3 employees and 1 “New Life”s volunteer drive their cars to deliver ARV therapy.

In addition, the Foundation does not stop providing legal and social assistance to people, doing it remotely. Also, we accompany people released from prison to medical organizations, help to deliver food packages, clothes. In case of emergency, one of our employees collects the kits for participants at our drop-in centre and delivers them to their homes with all necessary security measures.

In the future, we plan to go back to the way we used to work, assess and reflect on our experience in the pandemic and perhaps make adjustments to some aspects of our work.

 

ICPCovid-HIV study

As the Covid-19 containment measures ramp up around the world, different countries implement different strategies, and health systems are overwhelmed to varying degrees. Generating high-quality evidence on the impact of Covid-19 and related measures on both the quality of life and the management of HIV in different settings, will help provide guidance for decision-making and better preparedness in case of future pandemics.

In this light, researchers based at the University of Antwerp (Belgium) have designed a small study in collaboration with Sensoa and EATG to investigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on HIV care and the well-being of persons living with HIV (PLHIV).

Aims of the ICPCovid-HIV study:

1. To identify possible consequences of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on the quality of life of PLHIV

2. To assess access of PLHIV to healthcare services and HIV treatment

3. To compare the impact of different Covid-19 containment measures in different countries on the quality of life and management among PLHIV

4. To identify associations between specific antiretroviral regimens and Covid-19 incidence and/or Covid-19 clinical outcomes

More information – here. 

Response of AFEW Kyrgyzstan to COVID-19

COVID-19 rapidly spreading around the world requires urgent and decisive actions. AFEW Kyrgyzstan quickly responded to the emerging threat and prepared the support measures, which can help the key populations in this challenging time. Natalia Shumskaya, director of AFEW Kyrgyzstan, told AFEW International about them.

Social bureau for women living with HIV

The social bureau for women living with HIV offering peer support services as well as consultations of psychologists and social workers continues its operation during the lockdown. Before the state of emergency was announced, most people living with HIV (PLWH) in the city received Antiretroviral therapy (ARVs) for up to three months. If people were not able to come and pick up their medications, the social worker brought them to their homes. However, PLWH still need ARVs, so every day a representative of our organization brings such medications to two or three addresses using an official vehicle of the AIDS centre.

Nutritional support

About one-third of PLWH in Kyrgyzstan live in poverty. People who used to earn money for their living with odd jobs are now left without any sources of income and have urgent needs in food products, hygiene items, diapers for their babies and mobile charge cards to stay connected. Every day, the psychologist from the AIDS Centre gives calls to women living with HIV and provides them with psychological support. If people need food, the psychologist gives them contact details of the Bishkek district headquarters for them to receive humanitarian aid. We have sent a request to the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan asking them to allocate food packages for 40 women living with HIV.

In community centres for women with substance abuse problems, there was also a need in masks, disinfectants and food packages, so we procured all the needed materials to comply with the infection control measures from our project budget.

Psychological support

Three psychologists of our organization continue providing psychological support over the phone and using WhatsApp. Mostly they are contacted by women with severe anxiety, panic attacks or those who faced domestic violence. Some women have relatives with mental health problems. Besides, we received phone calls from young people with drug abuse problems.

Young people help!

There is a volunteer headquarters launched in the youth centre together with the National Agency for Youth and Physical Culture. People working at the organization and other city residents make donations to a special account to procure food products for those in need. Our Champions for Life from the Dance4life programme signed up as volunteers and deliver the humanitarian aid.

For prisoners

We procured and provided to the National Law Enforcement Service two thousand masks, 850 kg of bleach, and 50 bottles of antiseptics for the prisoners.   Besides, we developed leaflets for prisoners and prisons staff. Soon brochures will be published and distributed among the prisons.

We are currently carrying out negotiations with different donors and I hope that in the nearest future we will be able to raise more funds to support the National Law Enforcement Service.   We are waiting for the response from the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) concerning our project proposal on carrying out training sessions for prisoners and non-medical personnel working in prisons on COVID-19 and on procuring soap and laundry detergent for prisoners.

Due to the physical contact being impossible, our peer consultant (PLWH) provides support to the prisoners living with HIV remotely, through phone calls.

For reference

As of today, there are 144 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one registered death in Kyrgyzstan.

Since March 25, the government declared the state of emergency. A curfew has been introduced, so people are not allowed to leave their homes after 8 p.m. In the daytime, there can be only three reasons to go outside: to a supermarket, pharmacy or to visit a doctor provided that the person has an itinerary sheet. Public transport and taxi services are closed.

AFEW International signed “Civil Society Statement on COVID-19 and People who use Drugs”

INPUD, in collaboration with International Drug Policy Consortium and Harm Reduction International, developed a statement ‘In the time of COVID-19: Civil Society Statement on COVID-19 and People who use Drugs’.

Organizations are asking for the international community, including international donors, to act immediately to ensure, through policy guidelines and financial and political support, that national, regional and global responses to the pandemic respect the fundamental rights of all.

The deadline for sign on is Monday, 6 April, by noon (12:00 – London time).

To  sign the statement, please use this link.

The statement

In the time of COVID-19: Civil Society Statement on COVID-19 and People who use Drugs

We, as community and civil society organisations working in drug policy reform and harm reduction, urge the international community to take proactive and coordinated action to protect the health and human rights of people who use drugs in light of the COVID-19 crisis.COVID-19 infection does not discriminate, but magnifies existing social, economic and political inequities. People who use drugs are particularly vulnerable due to criminalisation and stigma and often experience underlying health conditions, higher rates of poverty, unemployment and homelessness, as well as a lack of access to vital resources – putting them at greater risk of infection. The crisis must be an occasion to rethink the function of punishment, to reform the system and to work towards ending the war on drugs. If we are to ‘flatten the curve’, the health of the most marginalised in society must also be protected as an urgent priority.

In times of crisis, uncertainty and upheaval it is imperative that human rights act as an anchor point. Careful and vigilant attention must be paid to non-discriminatory access to health care, human dignity and transparency. Multiple governments emphasise that we are fighting a ‘war’, the use of such terminology justifying a militarised approach that allows for the suspension of rights and freedoms. History shows that extraordinary powers are routinely deployed against the most persecuted in society, who risk being scapegoated in the name of infection control. As states of emergency are declared, the international community must urge caution on the creation of a ‘new normal’ where States derogate from their obligation to serve and protect all persons.

Failure to effectively steer and manage the COVID-19 response will have disastrous consequences. The international community, including international donors, must act immediately to ensure, through policy guidelines and financial and political support, that national, regional and global responses to this pandemic take the needs of people who use drugs into account and respect the fundamental rights of all. We therefore suggest the following recommendations:

1. Protect the right to health: During times such as these, governments have an obligation to ensure that a public health crisis does not become a human rights crisis due to lack of access to adequate health care. In the wake of COVID-19, however, there is great concern that harm reduction services are being closed, not adapting sufficiently rapidly to changing legal and health contexts and that essential resources will be diverted to the COVID-19 response at the expense of equally life-saving work. Inappropriate and restrictive regulations banning or limiting take-home doses and other supplies make complying with lockdowns and social distancing rules extremely difficult. Harm reduction workers report unease about scarcity of resources, lack of coherent policies and programme guidelines on COVID-19, and potential disruptions to global supply chains of essential medicines and equipment, including methadone, buprenorphine, naloxone, needles and syringes, disinfectant, masks and gloves.

The international community must act swiftly to ensure States meet their international obligations to protect the right to life and health. This can be done by issuing strong political statements and clear and comprehensive technical guidance, building on WHO and UNODC  guidelines and national COVID-10 regulations, which unequivocally calls to:

– Declare harm reduction programmes as life-saving services that must stay open. The closure of harm  reduction centres would deprive service users from accessing life-saving interventions and would ultimately lead to over-crowding of centres that remain open, increasing risk of infection.
– Immediately amend restrictive legal and regulatory policies that ban or limit take-home doses due to fear of diversion and that restrict the provision of take-home naloxone to prevent overdoses.
– Enhance service accessibility, develop and implement safety and hygiene protocols and coordinate efforts within the health system to allow for the effective distribution of resources.
– Recognise harm reduction workers as critical healthcare workers so that they can access government stocks of protective clothing.
– Protect and expand the operation of low-threshold services, including outreach, as well as provide housing and shelter for those facing housing insecurity.
– Adequately fund harm reduction services, particularly low-threshold services.

2. Ensure safe supply: Border closures and travel bans around the world will impact the future supply of unregulated substances such as heroin and cocaine. This will have a range of repercussions, including an increase in demand for opiate substitution therapy (OST). Of particular concern is that synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, which are easier to produce and transport, could replace bulkier substances such as heroin, the corollary of this being an exponential increase in overdose deaths.

In light of the above, international and regional bodies must work with member states to:

– Monitor trends of illicit drug markets to provide a rapid response to dangerous and emerging trends, such as increased risk of overdose deaths.
– Ensure increased access to OST to respond to changes in drug supply, through accelerated and flexible entry procedures.
– Deprioritise the enforcement of supply-side control in order to retain some stability in illicit drug markets and prevent market saturation with synthetic drugs.
– Respond to potential disruptions in the production of methadone and buprenorphine and step in when early signs of issues with supply chain management are detected.

3. Protect the right to be free from arbitrary detention: The COVID-19 crisis has spotlighted the public health dangers of overcrowding in prison and detention facilities which are traditional hotbeds for infectious diseases. According to UN data, at least 470,000 persons are incarcerated worldwide for drug use and possession only, while an additional 1.7 million people are incarcerated for other drug offences, many of which are non-violent. In addition, across East and South-east Asia, hundreds of thousands of people who use drugs are detained in compulsory drug detention facilities, with tens of thousands more detained in private drug treatment centres, often against their will, across Asia and Latin America. In such contexts, COVID-19 prevention measures, such as physical distancing, cannot be implemented effectively. Further restrictions on family visits and supervised releases increase isolation and stress during a time of fear, leading to an increase in violence, riots and assault.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged governments to reduce the number of people in detention, particularly those without sufficient legal basis. In view of this, the international community must ensure States take action to:

– Decriminalise drug use and possession for personal use as promoted by the UN system and outlined in the UN Common Position on Drugs.
– Reduce the prison population through early release, pardons, amnesties and non-coercive alternatives to incarceration for people detained for drug-related non-violent offences, particularly those on remand, and those most-at-risk individuals, including people living with HIV, TB and COPD, as well as older people.
– Immediately release people who use drugs from compulsory drug detention centres and from private drug treatment centres that apply coercive measures, including involuntary detention.

4. Protect civil and political liberties: Many governments, as part of COVID-19 containment measures, are restricting civil liberties in unprecedented ways, through mass surveillance, including tracking mobile phone data, restricting movement and banning public assembly. Authorities such as police and army personnel are permitted to stop anyone on the street, increasing the chance of hostile interactions with people who use drugs, particularly when they need to purchase drugs or travel for health appointments. The potential misuse of personal data, particularly when it comes to criminalised populations, is of acute concern.

In a joint statement, UN experts have urged States, in accordance with the Siracusa Principles, to exert caution when applying COVID-19 related measures and restrictions that may impinge on human rights, as well as to limit their duration and subject them to regular review. Based on this, we urge the international community to:

– Ensure that emergency declarations and broader extraordinary powers granted under COVID-19 responses are not used to target specific populations or deployed to silence and repress human rights defenders.
– Establish rights-based legal safeguards to govern the appropriate use and handling of personal data to  protect privacy and confidentiality.
– Ensure that exorbitant fines and imprisonment should only be used as a last resort and personal circumstances taken into account, in the event of breaches to protective measures.

5. Protect community and civil society organisations: The COVID-19 pandemic has showed the critical role of communities in the response, as they can react quickly and reach those who are otherwise unreachable, easing the burden on the healthcare system. Furthermore, communities play important watchdog functions when it comes to government transparency and accountability. UN and donor agencies must act to:

– Protect human rights defenders, communities and civil society organisations during this crucial time, by highlighting their critical role in public statements and in their interaction with governments.
– Ensure governments do not impose disproportionate restrictions or obstructions on the work of community  and civil society organisations.
– Establish mechanisms for monitoring human rights compliance, with a particular focus on populations whose rights are commonly violated.

Global problems such as the COVID-19 pandemic require global solutions. We urge the international community to take urgent action to ensure the inherent rights and dignity of people who use drugs are respected and defended in the time of COVID-19. The pandemic has laid bare the failures within our societies. Undoubtedly a serious challenge, COVID-19 must not be exploited by governments to suspend basic rights and freedoms indefinitely, but be a wake-up call to change and repair a broken system that has been overly focused on the punishment of people who use drugs, a policy that is now exacerbating the dangers of COVID-19. The failed war on drugs must end, and health and political systems must be reformed to ensure the health and wellbeing of all.

#Strongertogether. The EU’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in the Eastern Partnership

As part of its global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the European Commission is mobilising an emergency support package for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine: €140 million for immediate needs; up to €700 million for the short and medium term to support the social and economic recovery of the region.

Responding to immediate needs includes:

  • Support to the health sector (€30 million)
  • Working with the WHO to supply medical devices and personal equipment such as ventilators, laboratory kits, masks, goggles, gowns, and safety suits.
  • Training medical and laboratory staff, and raising awareness across the six countries.

 

  • Support for the most vulnerable groups in society (€11.3 million)
  • Grants of up to €60,000 to civil society organisations to respond to immediate needs, such as supporting local schools with distance learning – already available through the EU’s regional “Rapid Response Mechanism”.
  • Launch of the “Eastern Partnership Solidarity Programme” to target the most affected parts of the populations, with sub-grants to smaller, local organisations.

Limiting the social and economic impact

Working closely with International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and financing institutions from EU Member States to provide a coordinated European response as TEAM EUROPE:

  1. New €100 million support programme to help SMEs, including self-employed and others to easily access credit and boost their businesses after the crisis.
  2. €200 million of existing credit lines and grants to SMEs in local currency through the EU4Business Initiative.
  3. €500 million available for the EU’s Neighbourhood through the EU’s major de-risking instrument, the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) to rapidly provide liquidity across the region.

What is the EU already doing for the Eastern Partnership to face the coronavirus emergency?

Armenia

  • Over 3,000 vulnerable households, with elderly people and people with disabilities and large families in Shirak, Tavush and Lori regions will receive humanitarian aid packages thanks to the support of the European Union.

Azerbaijan

  • With EU funds, the Ganja Vocational Education and Training school will purchase equipment machinery to produce masks for the Ganja area.

Belarus

  • Thanks to EU cross-border cooperation projects linking communities in Belarus, Ukraine and Poland, emergency medical services such as ambulances and respirators are available in the hospitals to help doctors fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Georgia

  • A Georgian producer of medical textiles has produced 40,000 medical gowns within a week after he was able to purchase 12 additional sewing machines thanks to a micro-grant provided by the EU.

Republic of Moldova

  • EU projects in Moldova are already working to provide protection sets such as gloves and masks for vulnerable people and medical staff, as well as sterilizers for equipment across the country.

Ukraine

  • The EU supports the building of community resilience through assistance to vulnerable people, transition to online education, fighting disinformation and strengthening cultural diversity and creativity online.

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