COVID-19 and the ‘Myriad’: A Comparative Assessment of Emergency Responses from Europe and South America

Barker, Kim; Uribe-Jongbloed, Enrique and Scholz, Tobias (2021). COVID-19 and the ‘Myriad’: A Comparative Assessment of Emergency Responses from Europe and South America. Legalities, 1(1) pp. 116–143.



The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted – across intricate borders, different geographies, and legal jurisdictions – that there is only so much that can be done in the way of governance to tackle the challenge posed by a virus. The pandemic is a global problem, one which has affected almost every country in significant and seldom-felt ways. Governments have been forced to react, to respond with emergency measures, temporary rules and legislation, and impose restrictions on freedoms. It has brought to the fore a range of responses, locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. What is particularly evident across the unfolding of the pandemic is the divergent approaches in introducing governance measures to control behaviour, to share data and information, and to report on the pandemic while holding decision-makers to account.

Much of the reporting of government reactions to the pandemic has focussed on emergency restrictions, lockdowns, the suspension of ‘normal’ gatherings, public health data, and tracing apps. Each of these is bundled up with concerns over the interferences with freedoms, a lack of scrutiny and holding to account of governance bodies and lawmakers, and privacy concerns. The new ways of working, governing, and communicating emergency rules is a COVID-19 legacy for governments, but is it one that will shift our expectations? The balance between fundamental freedoms has been – to an extent – pitted against the public health agenda and the nature of the emergency response by governments across the world, but particularly in Germany, the UK, and South America.

This article explores the nature of the government responses through emergency measures (and restrictions) and tracing programmes in three countries: Germany, the United Kingdom, and Colombia. The assessment – and comparison – of three countries, across two diverse regions – offers a unique discussion from the perspective of pandemic responses to the COVID-19 emergency. The pandemic itself provides an opportunity to compare countries, governance responses, and legalities that may not otherwise be possible. The myriad of responses seen throughout the pandemic offers a unique opportunity for comparative discussion – this paper provides that discussion, but in so doing, assesses whether it is possible to recommend a ‘one size fits all’ approach to governance emergencies.

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