A new report, published today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has found an overall lack of legal preparedness or strong legislation for public health emergencies.
The report, Law and Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, examines how law and policy can support preparedness for and response to public health emergencies, and how public health laws relate to wider disaster risk management laws.
Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC, said:
“We may not have known the full extent of what was to come when this pandemic hit, but we should have been better prepared. When roles and coordination mechanisms are not defined, we risk losing precious time and public trust. Humanitarian actors, such as National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, have a key role to play during public health emergencies. These roles should be formalised, and appropriate exemptions from restrictions provided so that the response can be swift and effective.
“We must use the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to review law and policy for public health emergencies and see where we can improve. With the IFRC’s experience in this field, we’re ready to bring our knowledge to the table. We must act now to improve legal preparedness, to help save lives and keep communities safe in the future.”
With the publication of this report, the IFRC is calling for urgent action to strengthen domestic legal and policy frameworks for public health emergencies, so that states can be better prepared.
Isabelle Granger, IFRC’s Legislative Advocacy Coordinator said:
“People often don’t think too much about legal issues in the middle of an emergency, but laws and policies have enabled states of emergency to be declared, lockdowns to be imposed and, more recently, the expedition of vaccine approvals. Never before have so many laws been made in so many countries in respect of one event, in such a short space of time.
“What our research has shown is that, in many cases, states were not legally prepared. Old laws, policies and contingency plans were dusted off, often proving to be outdated or inadequate, requiring the rapid development of new laws.”
The report contains extensive findings and recommendations based on an analysis of the domestic legal and policy frameworks used to respond to COVID-19 and other public health emergencies such as those caused by the Ebola, Zika and SARS viruses.