[Philippe Sands is a Professor of Law at University College London and a barrister at Matrix Chambers.]
The birth and transmission of the Sars-Cov-2 virus, and the COVID-19 illness it generates, and the response to it – are matters for international law. The full consequences will emerge over time, but certain observations may be proposed. It is plain that the health needs of COVID-19 go beyond the capacities of our hospitals, and of our international legal structures.
What have we learned?
We are interconnected.
We are fragile.
We are ill-informed.
We need government and cannot rely on the market-place.
We adopt international principles – like precaution – then fail to apply them.
We are adaptable.
We cannot act alone.
Whether the world will act together remains unclear. ‘The epidemic itself and the resulting economic crisis are global problems’, Yuval Noah Harari notes, even as the response confronts us with a binary choice, ‘between nationalist isolation and global solidarity’. Harari opts for ‘global co-operation’.