Effect of COVID-19 on International Law

International Law has always been important. However, that could not be more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 has literally impacted the entire world. Many countries have seen significant numbers of their populations become sick from the Coronavirus.

In many counties, death rates have been high as well. Death rates have been significantly higher amongst senior citizens and those already suffering from illness.

This is not the first time that the international community has had to deal with a pandemic relative to international law, In 1902, the PanAmerican Health Organization (PAHO) was founded. This was the very first international organization that focused on health. And, in 1907, a second institution was formed called the Office Internationale d’Higiène. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the primary international institution with an emphasis on public health. Article 2 of the Constitution of the WHO designates its functions as “the directing and coordinating authority on international health work.:

In 2005, this agency issued the International Health Regulations (IHR) to present the rules that would have to be followed to face in case of a pandemic. The IHR regulations dealt with “best practices” in case of a pandemic.

As part of this, countries can restrict foreign visitors to help prevent the spread of pandemics. But the restrictions need to be justified. What is justified and what is not justified can be somewhat ambiguous and subject to various interpretations.

These regulations can also have a serious impact on trade. Trade effects the economy of nations internationally. It is true that COVID-19 has has a significant impact on the world economy.

Law firms and the legal industry have also been impacted by COVID-19. Many law firms have had to run their law firms virtually in many respects. Many courts have also shifted toward having court hearings and court dates by video conference.

The longer the COVID-19 situation remains unresolved, the more dilemmas from an international law perspective the entire world will face. It will be interesting to see the developments as the situation continues.