Comparing Nations’ Responses to COVID-19

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Leading scholars from around the world discuss the administrative law and regulatory dimensions to the global response to COVID-19.

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The world has been consumed by COVID-19, with the disease’s contagion spreading to every corner of the globe. National governments and international organizations have responded to the coronavirus pandemic with varying speeds and policies, including shelter-in-place orders and economic stimulus packages, each with important administrative law components. In many countries, public officials have taken unprecedented regulatory actions, at times perhaps even pushing the limits of their legal authority.

To offer our readers insight into the administrative law and regulatory dimensions of the global response to COVID-19, The Regulatory Review has launched this special series. The series owes its intellectual inspiration and leadership to Neysun Mahboubi, a Research Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Contemporary China and a Lecturer at Penn Law. Mahboubi recruited most of the contributors to this series, and The Regulatory Review is grateful to work with him and the series’s many contributors to feature this diverse collection of legal and regulatory analyses on the planet’s most pressing crisis.

Over the coming months, The Regulatory Review will publish essays covering the regulatory and administrative law aspects of the pandemic by contributors from more than twenty jurisdictions around the world. Six initial essays offer scholarly perspectives on developments in the United States, China, Italy, France, the World Health Organization, and Australia. Throughout the spring, we will continually add new essays from our array of invited contributors.

This series launch features initial contributions from a diverse set of international scholars, including: Cary Coglianese, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School; Andrew Edgar, an associate professor at the University of Sydney Law School; Oswald Jansen, a guest senior lecturer at Tilburg University; Shen Kui, a professor at Peking University Law School; Fernanda Nicola, a professor at American University Washington College of Law; and Thomas Perroud, a professor at University of Paris II Panthéon-Assas.

Obligation Alleviation During the COVID-19 Crisis

April 20, 2020 | Cary Coglianese, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Even though the most salient regulatory aspect of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States revolves around state-level orders shutting down most business and social activity, the crisis also reveals the vital role in a regulatory system for decisions over when, how, and for whom to alleviate obligations.

The Delayed Response in Wuhan Reveals Legal Holes

April 20, 2020 | Shen Kui, Peking University Law School

Information is starting to emerge about why the Wuhan government delayed its response to the coronavirus. Although fragmented, the picture that is emerging can help explain how the legal system in China failed to propel local governments to act quickly to handle the contagious virus.

France’s Health Crisis is a Democracy Crisis, Too

April 21, 2020 | Thomas Perroud, University of Paris II Panthéon-Assas, and Emma Guernaoui, University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne

Scientific prescriptions cannot remedy the deficit of political decision-making that has left the French government underprepared to address this crisis. When evaluating the government’s response, we must observe and investigate France’s rhetoric of exceptionalism and how it serves to dilute responsibility.

Increasing the Legitimacy of the World Health Organization

April 22, 2020 | Oswald Jansen, American University Washington College of Law

If an international regulatory body is displacing national governments as decision-makers during public health emergencies, then procedural and substantive principles must govern that authority to compensate for the states’ yielding of control. Such principles would bolster the legitimacy of WHO’s authority to take administrative action.

Exporting the Italian Model to Fight COVID-19

April 23, 2020 | Fernanda Nicola, American University Washington College of Law

The Italian model for fighting COVID-19 has become a blueprint for many European nations and the United States. Italy transformed conflicts between its central and regional governments into enhanced cooperation.

Disrupting Administrative Law in a Public Health Crisis

April 24, 2020 | Andrew Edgar, University of Sydney Law School  

The main disruption to administrative law in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic has been the disabling of parliamentary review and legislative disallowance. With no public participation to ensure the legitimacy of these actions, the courts may be the only check on the Australian government’s use of public health regulation during this crisis.

Regulatory Cooperation to Combat Public Health Crises

April 27, 2020 | Elizabeth Golberg, former Director of the European Commission’s Better Regulation Directorate

In today’s globalized world, it is difficult to imagine any workable, sustainable solution to a public health issue that does not involve some form of international regulatory cooperation. Such cooperation rests on a foundation of trust, transparency, and adaptability.

Israel Pushes Its Emergency Powers to Their Limits

April 28, 2020 | Elena Chachko, University of Pennsylvania, and Adam Shinar, Harry Radzyner Law School at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel

The Israeli government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, including suspension of most judicial work, electronic surveillance, and the stonewalling of Parliament, reveals potential abuses by the executive of the emergency regulatory regime without proper oversight.

Regulatory Justification and Coordination in South Africa

April 29, 2020 | Geo Quinot, Stellenbosch University

The regulatory response to the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa is noteworthy because of how the government has justified sweeping restrictions with scientific expertise and because of the challenges the government faces due to the lack of horizontal regulatory coordination.

The U.K. Races to Catch Up on COVID-19

April 30, 2020 |  Duncan Fairgreive, British Institute of International and Comparative Law

The U.K. government may have been slow to react in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, but since then it has moved swiftly to implement expansive lockdown restrictions. These restrictions push the limits of their statutory authority.

India’s Executive Response to COVID-19

May 4, 2020 | Gautam Bhatia, University of Oxford

The regulation of pandemic response measures has emerged as a web of intersecting administrative orders at the central and the state level. India’s deliberative and representative bodies are prevented from exercising scrutiny or oversight of executive actions.

Rethinking Judicial Oversight in a Time of Crisis

May 5, 2020 | Cristie Ford, Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia

Around the world, governments need to redesign and reinvigorate their judicial systems, and may do so by renewing a commitment to the rule of law, independent of the place-based, in-person rituals that have so long characterized courtroom practices.

Regulating in Times of Tragic Choices

May 6, 2020 | Maria De Benedetto, Roma Tre University

Italy’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has consisted of people, together with their multi-level governments, experimenting with a regulatory balance among competing values. Trust is crucial for ensuring effective and high quality regulation during this time where the government is forced to make tragic choices.

Rescuing the European Economy from COVID-19

May 7, 2020 | Joana Mendes, University of Luxembourg

The COVID-19 pandemic began as a threat to public health, but has since produced a fundamental challenge to Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union. This crisis is likely to exacerbate the deep divisions within the eurozone and lead to unpredictable political consequences.

Continuous Judicial Review in Coronavirus Times

May 11, 2020 | Yoav Dotan, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The judiciary’s supervision over executive policymaking did not come to a halt during the crisis—but rather, through judicial review, the judiciary exercised significant influence on the government’s policies and on Israeli society during this tumultuous period.

COVID-19 and Cooperative Administrative Federalism in Germany

May 13, 2020 | Johannes Saurer, University of Tuebingen 

The central role of federal and state governments in both guideline-setting and implementation reflects two traditional patterns of federal governance in Germany: administrative federalism and cooperative federalism.

South Korea’s Success Against COVID-19 

May 14, 2020 | Seung-Youn Oh, Bryn Mawr College

What kind of institutional and legal changes did South Korea adopt to transform itself from a “super spreader” of MERS to a “super stopper” of COVID-19? Examining these changes reveals several lessons from South Korea that other countries should heed in their COVID-19 responses.

The Disjointed Dutch Policies to Fight COVID-19

May 18, 2020 | Anne Meuwese, Tilburg University

The conventional wisdom in the Netherlands is that the Dutch do not like to bow to authority. In mid-March the Prime Minister called for an “intelligent lockdown.” It is not always clear, however, whether the Prime Minister’s strategy is to do everything reasonably possible to fight the spread of the virus or to “flatten the curve but not too much.”

The Trump Administration’s Pandemic Response Is Structured to Fail

May 19, 2020 | Alejandro E. Camacho, University of California-Irvine, and Robert L. Glicksman, George Washington University

The Trump Administration’s bungled response was made immeasurably worse by the Administration’s confused and confusing allocation of authority to perform or supervise tasks essential to reducing the virus’s damaging effects.

Old Norms and New Challenges in Spain’s Response to COVID-19

May 20, 2020 | Susana de la Sierra, University of Castilla-La Mancha

From a legal perspective, in Spain, the lack of updated and appropriate legislation to deal with a global public health crisis is a major issue. Transparency, legal certainty, and coordination are three key concepts that require attention during the COVID-19 crisis and in crisis response thereafter.

COVID-19 and Access to Medical Care in the United States

May 26, 2020 | Allison K. Hoffman and Simone Hussussian, University of Pennsylvania Law School

The federal government has largely punted to the states the challenge of expanding access to COVID-19 medical care. States are not especially well positioned to address a pandemic, yet they have shown great adeptness at using the tools that are in their control.

Mexico’s Untimely Fight Against Coronavirus 

May 27, 2020 | Mauricio A. Guim, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México 

In responding to the COVID-19 crisis, effective governments distinguish themselves from ineffective ones by the capacity of their political leaders, as well as the capacity of governing institutions, to process information and harness expert advice and evidence in a timely way.

Regulatory Delivery Lessons From COVID-19

May 28, 2020 | Florentin Blanc, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 

The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of focusing on risk assessment, integrating and managing information, ensuring that regulatory requirements do not create unnecessary barriers, avoiding procedural “heaviness” that hinders responsiveness, and communicating effectively with the public.

Regulatory Uncertainty Over Emergency Powers in Switzerland

May 29, 2020 | Odile Ammann, Law Institute of the University of Zurich

The executive use of emergency powers in Switzerland during the pandemic is complicated by the federal parliament’s supreme authority under the Constitution, the centrality of direct democratic rights, and Switzerland’s federalist system of governance.

Brazil’s COVID-19 Response is Caught Between Denialism and Technocratic Hubris

June 1, 2020 | Bruno Cunha, research affiliate with the Penn Program on Regulation 

Brazil’s COVID-19 policies have at best inconsistently enacted its administrative apparatuses, particularly at the ministerial level, where a prevailing dogmatic anti-state narrative stands in the way of pragmatic and effective decision-making.

Responding to COVID-19 Without Public Trust 

June 2, 2020 | Jorge Contesse, Rutgers University 

The political context surrounding the Chilean government’s COVID-19 response—where lack of government trust has become pervasive—is crucial for understanding the government’s failure to address and contain the virus.

Coordinating Colombia’s Pandemic Response

June 3, 2020 | Juan Carlos Covilla Martínez, Externado University Law School, Colombia

Colombia’s response to the pandemic and to future emergencies should involve a better coordinated system, and coordination measures should include consultation with local governments and specific procedures to address emergencies in a better manner.

Vietnam’s Astonishing Success at Curbing COVID-19 Outbreaks

June 4, 2020 | Trang (Mae) Nguyen, New York University School of Law 

Commentators have attributed Vietnam’s effective response to a host of recent executive actions. Giving credit mainly to Vietnam’s authoritarian toolkit, however, risks missing a more salient narrative about Vietnam’s decades-long effort to improve governance and responsiveness at local levels.

Italy’s Complex Legislative Framework Impairs Its COVID-19 Response

June 8, 2020 | Nicoletta Rangone, LUMSA University

The Italian response to the COVID-19 has been one of exceptions to the norm. Despite policymakers’ good intentions, the measures they have put in place have often clashed with the country’s complex legislative framework, including its traditions of baroque legal drafting, legislative inflation, red tape, and the neglect of previous assessments.

Lessons From New Zealand’s COVID-19 Success

June 9, 2020 | Richard Parker, University of Connecticut School of Law

Key elements of New Zealand’s successful COVID-19 strategy contrasted with the familiar and less successful response of the United States. New Zealand’s battle to contain the virus followed the classic pattern ordained by the science of virus transmission.

Did Japan’s Lenient Lockdown Conquer the Coronavirus?

June 10, 2020 | Eric Feldman, University of Pennsylvania Law School 

Although Japan is commonly perceived as a nation where a strong state leads a pliable public that is deferential to authority, the most notable aspect of Japan’s coronavirus policy is the priority placed on individual rights over the protection of public health, resulting in a limited lockdown and spotty compliance with requests to stay home and close businesses.

Soft Regulation and Hard Compliance in Taiwan

June 11, 2020 | Cheng-Yi Huang, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

Taiwan has adopted a relatively less-intensive regulatory framework and still has managed to secure a low mortality rate during the global crisis. The efficacy of soft regulation depends on proactive compliance from members of society.

Singapore’s Regulatory Response to COVID-19

June 15, 2020 | Kevin Y.L. Tan, National University of Singapore

The COVID-19 crisis was tailor-made for Singapore’s executive, top-down, interventionist, and managerial style of governance. For the most part, the government has acted sensibly and responsibly, and was therefore able to secure widespread cooperation from the people.

Why Brazil’s COVID-19 Response is Failing

June 22, 2020 | Mariana Urban and Eduardo Saad-Diniz, Ribeirão Preto Law School at the University of São Paulo 

The Brazilian government is sending mixed signals about the severity of the outbreak in Brazil and turning a pandemic into a political debate. This posture has led to some resistance by state governments to comply fully with federal guidelines.

Chile’s Political and Institutional Response to COVID-19

June 24, 2020 | Josefina Court and José Tomás Correa, FerradaNehme

The health crisis has forced the state to take radical action to contain and manage the emergency. Chile has witnessed the strengthening of the public apparatus and restriction of constitutional rights, mainly through administrative decisions.

China’s Administrative State Is Both a Blessing and a Curse

June 30, 2020 | Jacques deLisle, University of Pennsylvania Law School

China’s response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus reflects characteristic weaknesses—as well as strengths—of the Chinese administrative state. A more ambitious law to address the sources of COVID-19 would have faced challenges endemic to regulation in China.

Portugal’s Response to COVID-19

July 1, 2020 |  Ana Santos Rutschman, St. Louis University School of Law

Portugal so far has been able contain the virus relatively well. By adopting a wide-reaching package of initial measures and only gradually lifting restrictions, the Portuguese response confirms the need for early interventions matched by phased, closely monitored, reopening strategies.

Comparative Administrative Law Matters in the Fight Against COVID-19

July 2, 2020 |  Neysun A. Mahboubi, University of Pennsylvania 

The essays in this series may not resolve debates over the relative merits and efficacies of regime type in times of crisis. However, in the impressive range of the collection—and the granularity of each contribution—there is much to be gleaned about state regulatory capacity overall.

Tracking Legal Responses to COVID-19

July 2, 2020 |  Cary Coglianese and Larissa Morgan, University of Pennsylvania Law School

In a recent podcast, Larissa Morgan, the Editor-in-Chief of The Regulatory Review, and Cary Coglianese, the Edward B. Shils Professor of Law and faculty advisor to The Review, discussed this series of essays.

Law, Leadership, and Legitimacy in a Time of Disease

July 6, 2020 |  Cary Coglianese, University of Pennsylvania Law School

It is The Review’s hope that lawyers, leaders, and citizens everywhere, by learning how different nations have responded to the COVID-19 crisis, will gain a better understanding of law’s potential as an instrument for protecting public health, promoting economic welfare, and securing justice for all.