On July 17, 2020, as part of the LF Talks online events series, the International and Comparative Law Research Center held an online roundtable discussion on the ongoing research "COVID-19 ⸺ Test for the World's Legal Systems". Experts from the UK, France, and Russia shared the first research results as part of the event.
Victoria Manko, General Director of the Center, the moderator of the roundtable discussion, spoke about the research in opening remarks. The purpose of the research is a comprehensive study of the legal systems’ preparedness for the pandemic and, as a result, analysis of the measures taken to fight COVID-19 ⸺ in particular, the system of new rules, the powers of public authorities at different levels. Ms. Manko explained that this research involves a study of pandemic regulation at the national, regional, and international levels. "We believe that the results of our research will be instrumental in assessing the preparedness of States' legal systems for emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic and in understanding how the measures taken can affect business and the population," ⸺ she noted.
Ronan Cormacain, the Center’s external expert on the UK experience in a legal response to the COVID-19 crisis, a Consultant Legislative Counsel and a Senior Research Fellow at Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, presented the research’s first results. According to Dr. Cormacain, the existing legislation in the field of public health protection, which has started in the mid-80s, required the adoption of a number of additional acts of Parliament in an unprecedentedly short time (5 days instead of 5 months). The expert said that on March 20, 2020, the Coronavirus Act 2020 was adopted, which is effective throughout the country. Due to the adoption of this legal document it was possible to establish special restrictions aimed at protecting the health of the population, without the introduction of an emergency regime. Dr. Cormacain noted that in the past months more than 180 new secondary legal acts had been adopted to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Estelle Chambas, an expert in administrative law of France, Ph.D. candidate and teaching assistant at Université Panthéon-Assas (Paris II), emphasized that France had not had an adequate response regime at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, a “fresh” law was quickly adopted that allowed for the introduction of a "sanitary emergency regime" in the country from March 23, 2020. Ms. Chambas noted that the first experience clearly showed that the implementation of such a regime had entailed some limitations to the rule of law. This regime is constitutionally “weak”, but the general consensus of the population allowed to disguise it.
Yulia Paukova, Ph.D. in Law, member of the National Association of specialists in administrative law, spoke about steps taken at the federal and regional levels in the Russian Federation. Dr. Paukova noted that while the federal center retains the authority to take strategic decisions to fight the spread of the disease, the regional authorities established the regime on their own, based on the recommendations of the Chief Sanitary Doctor of Russia and relevant specialists in the regions. Dr. Paukova underlined that the Russian Federation had not adopted a separate law dedicated to COVID-19, but more than 30 federal laws had been adopted to adapt all spheres of the State and society to work and live in a pandemic.
Links to the full roundtable video: