International Law on Pandemic Response: A First Stocktaking in Light of the Coronavirus Crisis
29 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 26, 2020
The coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic is currently raging throughout the world. The ensuing crisis has acquired a multidimensional nature, affecting all levels of society. Measures adopted by domestic authorities have included a broad spectrum of restrictions: from general alerts to mandatory quarantines and isolations of individuals, to blanket travel bans and cordoning-off of cities and, in some cases, countries. Many governments have declared states of emergency, thereby assuming exceptional powers. This dire crisis leads to our core questions: What are the relevant obligations, powers and procedures under public international law? Have they been complied with? What role, if any, has international law, via its institutions, played so far?
The World Health Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, is the international institution with a core mandate in issues of global health. Moreover, the International Health Regulations (IHR) is the main legally binding instrument laying down rules for the cross-border spread of disease. Against this backdrop, in order to address the core questions, this paper provides an overview of the IHR in light of current issues and disputes. The paper then evaluates those issues and disputes under other regimes of international law, such as human rights, trade law, peace and security law, and the law of development finance. Lastly, the paper offers conclusions by way of answers to the research questions.
Keywords: Coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, World Health Organization, International Health Regulations, international health law, human rights, mass quarantines
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