Download All Country Data
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed strengths and shortcomings in many legal frameworks. Unprepared countries across the globe scrambled to draft new systems of rules, resulting in an ineffective public health response, loss of public trust and damage to individual rights and freedoms.
This legal guide is meant to help government decision-makers develop a legal framework that can respond appropriately to public health emergencies.
These laws need to provide the government with strong, clear and flexible authority to respond to an emergency. While every country should enact laws appropriate for the local context, there are several general characteristics that distinguish the most effective laws. In some countries these features may all be contained in a single public health emergency law, while in other countries they might be spread across a variety of legislation, regulations and other legal measures. This document outlines these touchstone characteristics to help policymakers design an appropriate legal framework.
Effective public health emergency laws:
- Address the complete lifecycle of emergencies
- Define the triggering events
- Balance strong and agile decision-making with meaningful oversight
- Fund adequately
- Equip authorities with all relevant public health tools
- Fulfill IHR obligations
- Protect human rights
- Integrate functioning health strategies
- Ensure flow of health data across all levels of governance
- Safeguard health care workers
- Enforce the rules without imposing unjust penalties
- Promote transparency
The legal guide provides background information on and describes key elements of these characteristics. Users of the guide are invited to review their current legal framework or new draft legislation through assessment questions for each characteristic. Additional resources are also available to provide more information on specific issues.
Mask Guidance Playbook
A guide providing tools for public health officials and leaders to promote mask-wearing.
COVID-19 Contact Tracing Playbook
The contact tracing playbook provides U.S. state and local health departments with technical guidance and tools for rapidly setting up and implementing contact tracing programs for COVID-19 in their jurisdictions.
Alert-Level Systems for COVID-19
Alert-level systems provide a framework to support clear decision-making, improve accountability and communicate with the public to ensure necessary behavior change.
COVID-19 and International Law: Quarantine of International Travelers
As a freedom-restricting measure, quarantine needs to be provided for and carried out in accordance with national law and subject to judicial or administrative review.
Effective Public Health Emergency Laws: A legal guide(319.87 KB)
Lois d'urgence de santé publique efficaces: Guide juridique(262.03 KB)
IHR Key Obligations and Rights for States Parties(139.10 KB)
Droits et obligations des États Parties au Règlement sanitaire international(123.45 KB)
12 Characteristics of an Effective Public Health Emergency Law(626.06 KB)
International Law and Travelers(120.49 KB)
Legal and Ethical Considerations for Public Health and Social Measures(112.58 KB)