INTERNATIONAL LAW: COVID-19.
The globalized World which was already undergoing an economic decline of approximately 3 to 2.4 per cent suffered a jolt when the horrific pandemic COVID – 19 caused a mayhem of catastrophic proportions. This unexpected biological disaster sealed the boundaries and distorted the supply chain by restricting the sale of non-necessary items, ban on travel, import, export, production of luxury items, etc. The visible economic crises include the oil price crash, gold price hike, supply shock, reallocation of resources by putting all the resources in the production of the health-related necessities, like turning the train into a quarantine centre, etc. Predicting and calculating the loss would highly depend upon the period of the outbreak and policies made. The expected economic recession is even more than the World War- II and the Global financial crises of the year 2009.
The spread of the virus started from Wuhan, China in November and was reported to WHO on 31st December 2019. The Incident Management Support Team was sent to China to study the virus and its impacts. On 5 January 2020, WHO published the first news on the outbreak of the disease. Over two months, the virus spread through various countries affecting a number of people and was eventually declared a Pandemic by the World Health Organisation on 11 March 2020.
The outbreak of Coronavirus in the State of Wuhan of China has no guaranteed medical treatment so far, the principle of herd immunity failed and the only solution to slow down the spread of this virus is social distancing which leads to countrywide lockdown around the globe. The extent of lockdown went to shut down the schools, colleges, offices, etc. allowing only the necessary services like supply of food items. The crisis can be compared with the past experiences of the nation like the Spanish flu in the year 1918-1919 resulting in 20-50 million deaths, the Asian flu of the year 1957-58, and the Hong Kong flu in 1968 resulting in 1- 4 million deaths each.
The scholars believed that the outbreak of this virus around the globe is due to China’s incomplete information provided to the World Health Organisation and the nation’s failure to take all the necessary preventive measures to stop the spread of the said virus. The claim made that China violated the International Health regulations and China should be sued for such damages caused to the world. The various nations part of the International treaties are legally bound by the clauses and articles of various agreements and conventions. China has violated the principles of International law related to health policies like the Constitution of the World Health Organisation.
In the year of 1969, the World Health Assembly adopted the International Health Regulations to control the spread of various infectious diseases. That was revised in the year 2005 to take preventive measures for more such infectious disease. These regulations are legally binding to 194 member states. They make it obligatory for a country to communicate any disease which is communicable and take the necessary steps to prevent the disease from its spread. It includes the sanction within the nation or outside the boundary of the nation.
China is alleged with the charges of violation of sections 6 and 7 of Part II which makes it obligatory to inform the WHO regarding the disease and its spread as soon as it came into the notice of the country in the prescribed manner by the regulations. The observed data indicates that China has violated the principles by hiding the spread of the virus and the delay in informing about the virus, which was made to secure the economic position of China as it is the first country in the list of merchandise export countries.
The Constitution of the World Health Organization ensures the highest possible level of Health by achieving complete cooperation among nations to protect the health of all and fulfilling the provisions to adequate health and social measures. The WHO Constitution makes it obligatory to the member states to communicate promptly about the important laws and regulations. Official reports and statistics planning to the health of the concerned state and provide the epidemiological report. The same is given under Article 6 of the Regulations regarding nomenclature, which is violated by China as it failed to communicate to the organization on time and the delay resulted in the loss of life and property around the globe. The initial report provided by China stated that the virus is not spreading through human to human transmission, which turned out to be false report as human to human transmission resulted in a dangerous situation.
China is being alleged with the violation of various international laws and the matter has been taken to the International Court of Justice to provide for the damages and the destruction caused to the Nations. The allegations are also made against the WHO that is performed under the influence of China and failed to provide proper measures. The Health Assembly could have taken some strict actions as empowered under Article 21, 22 and 37 of the Constitution. The allegations made are based on presumptions and some information received, which cannot be completely reliable to establish the guilt but these documents do make it necessary for the International Court of Justice to consider the matter and refer the situation. The countries facing huge economic loss should be awarded compensation by following the due procedure of law.
The Countries are bound to perform the obligations made under treaty through Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and under Chapter XV of the WHO constitution etc. China made responsible under the Responsibility of States for Intentionally Wrongful Acts, 2001 which provides the regulations for the act committed by the State with the mala fide intention and provides the ways to improve the situation as per the international laws. The International Court of Justice held that no state may “knowingly allow its territory to be used for acts contrary to the rights of other states.” which makes it clear that once the mala fide intention (as contended by other nations) of China is proved that will make it obligatory to pay the damages.
The biological weapon Convention of the United Nations is an agreement among nations to give an annual report of all the research activities and centres to protect the world from any biological destruction. The Second Review Conference (1986) agreed on some Confidence-building measures to anticipate damages caused by biological destructions. The third review conference, further revised and implemented such laws and regulations as a legal obligation. All these conventions and treaties follow the path of mutual collaboration among nations to obtain collective growth.
The U.S. made several allegations against China and called it “Chinese virus” and tried to establish that the virus is purposely prepared in the laboratory of Wuhan. U.S alleged the WHO that it failed to perform its duty and as a result, the U.S stopped funding the WHO. Apart from the U.S., Italy is highly affected by the spread of the virus and the economy of Italy is collapsing as most of it was dependent upon Tourism which is at the least priority of the Nations. Hence, Italy by calling it a biological weapon of China demanding for war damages.
After all the allegations made against China by various nations like the U.S., Italy etc., China has made an official statement stating that no violation has been made by the nation. The virus was identified at a later stage as initially the symptoms were general and the doctors could not think of the implication of such a virus. After a few cases and medical reports, it was made clear that the virus was spread by the consumption of bat but it was still not known that it could be transmitted through Human connection. China reported the virus as soon as it came to know about it. The information about the virus which turned out to be false is not made with the mala fide intention but happened because of the complex nature of the virus and the identification of viruses due to its period of the asymptomatic patient.
The current situation is complicated as no vaccine has been made by the world and the world is locked down. No allegation is established and the various organizations are coming up with various reports and studies to find out the actual outbreak of the virus. Also, various strategies are being prepared to fight the virus and avoid the anticipated economic crises. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is monitoring the situation and making relevant provisions for the betterment of the whole world.
Conclusively, China is being charged with the allegations of being responsible for the loss incurred by the spread of Corona Virus under various provisions of International Law and nothing has been proved or declared yet. The U.S also demanded an investigation in China based on the reports which say that this biological weapon was made to become hegemony and rule the world but it was denied by China. Also, U. S’s investigating agencies are stating various facts to establish China’s ill will whereas China claims about the virus is that it has its origin in the U.S Army. The world is facing the biological war with these political allegations to recover some loss. The truth behind the allegations and biological destruction is yet to be discovered but we can have the assurance of just and fair principles of international laws while evaluating this incident of the outbreak. It is maybe intentional or accidental but it is real and the world needs to fight with the virus and save the life of the people. The purpose of all the conventions, treaties, and statues is to safeguard life and property, which can be achieved by collective efforts.
Navin Kumar Jaggi