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International health regulations and compliance in Asia

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Abstract

This chapter reviews the Covid-19 pandemic through the lens of the international law regime of the International Health Regulations (IHR) of 2005. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) can claim some success in having worked with countries in Asia to build their capacity to respond to a pandemic, some of the countries that have been the most successful in containing the spread of Covid-19 did so despite the WHO’s hesitant response. The difficulty is that cumbersome IHR process of evaluating the threat posed by an outbreak and sounding the general alarm. This process enabled China to control the initial flow of information regarding the outbreak until such time as the WHO was able work through a cumbersome process and belatedly declare a “public health emergency of international concern.” The chapter then argues that a key element of combatting a pandemic is compliance with international law and the need to strengthen its regulatory mechanisms.