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Beginning in early 2020, countries around the world successively and then together faced the same rapidly emerging threats from the COVID-19 virus. The shared experience of this global pandemic affords scholars and policymakers a comparative lens through which to view how differences in countries’ governance structures and administrative responses affected their ability to manage the various crisis posed by the pandemic. This article introduces a special series of essays in the Administrative Law Review written by leading administrative law experts across the globe. Case studies focus on China, Chile, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States, as well as the World Health Organization. Although the pandemic and its consequences remain ongoing problems, this issue seeks to elucidate the regulatory challenges that countries have faced in common, and to compare approaches and distill lessons that might be transferrable across jurisdictions. From the essays in this special issue emerge at least four key lessons. First, it is clear that a global pandemic demands effective national and local governance. Second, regulations must be adaptable and responsive in the face of fast-moving public health threats. Third, emergency executive powers must be limited and subject to oversight and sunsetting. Finally, as much as administrative law can affect countries’ ability to craft effective responses to public health emergencies, responsible public leadership undoubtedly matters most of all. These four lessons can help guide efforts by lawmakers and policy advisors to prepare more nimble and effective regulatory approaches to respond to viral outbreaks and other public health threats. Even when the current global pandemic eventually recedes, the Administrative Law Review’s special issue on national responses to the COVID-19 crisis can provide a basis for reflection and renewed momentum toward strengthening international public health institutions and regulatory cooperation around the world.


Public health administration, novel coronavirus, COVID-19, SARS-COV-2 virus, comparative administrative law, infectious disease pandemic, emergency powers, governance, leadership, flexibility, adaptation, global health

Publication Title

Administrative Law Review

Publication Citation

73 Admin. L. Rev. 1 (2021)