Covid-19 in Asia: Law and Policy Contexts

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused extraordinary disruption on a global scale, from social distancing regulations and travel bans to full-scale jurisdictional lockdowns. CAPI Director and Chair in Asia-Pacific Legal Relations Victor V. Ramraj has galvanized an international network of legal scholars and social scientists to examine Covid-19 policies and practices – and the trade-offs they require - across Asia. Their contributions will be published in a forthcoming volume organized under five sections: (1) first wave containment measures; (2) emergency powers; (3) technology, science, and expertise; (4) politics, religion, and governance; and (5) economy, climate, and sustainability. Contributors will be presenting their draft essays as online webinars.

Upcoming webinars:

none currently scheduled - please CAPI Communications Officer Jon Woods to be notified of upcoming events

Past webinars:

28 May 2020 | Mongolia: Self-Isolation Leads to Success and Challenges​

with Charles Krusekopf (Royal Roads University) and Sainbuyan Munkhbat (Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada)

Mongolia has been highly successful in containing COVID-19 and preventing community outbreaks. Despite its close trade and travel links to China, South Korea and Russia, as of mid-May 2020 the country has recorded less than 200 cases, all linked to travel outside the country with no community spread. Mongolia's efforts were supported by both political leaders and the public, and were coordinated closely and successfully with neighboring countries and international organizations. While the country has achieved notable public health success, longer-term challenges are looming as the country tries to reopen but faces a severe economic and social shock due to high internal and external debt levels, continued international travel and trade restrictions, and the global economic slowdown.

21 May 2020 | Production and Pandemic in a Just-in-Time Global Economy: South and Southeast Asian Workers Face the Coronavirus Fellow-Traveler

with Jamie Lawson (UVic Political Science) and Helen Lansdowne (CAPI Associate Director)

This talk triangulates the global economy, COVID-19, and South and Southeast Asian (SEA) labour.  Filipino and Vietnamese workers in Canada, South Asian workers in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, and ASEAN workers laboring at home often experience confined living and working conditions, often the best conditions to transmit disease. Such conditions may exist even while moving along the corridors with goods and other people. South and Southeast Asian workers make possible the long transportation routes of modern commerce and recreation; their homelands burgeon with cheap manufacturing that supplies the world. Their Covid-19 experiences tell us many important truths about the world’s recent socio-economic history.

12 May 2020 | Vietnam: Marshaling State and Non-State Actors against Covid-19

with with Cuong Nguyen (Institute of Legal Studies, Ministry of Justice, Vietnam) and Thanh Phan (University of Victoria Law)

When the coronavirus outbreak emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the Government of Vietnam observed that this is a highly contagious disease and prepared measures to prevent the spread of this virus across Vietnam. The Government acknowledged that as a middle-income country with limited resources, Vietnam may not handle a nationwide outbreak. The Vietnamese Government, therefore, has mobilized all resources to flatten the curve of coronavirus in the early stages, which is considered as urgent and serious as a war. In this campaign, the Government of Vietnam has also been strongly supported by non-state actors including corporations, socio-political organizations, non-governmental organizations, and people. From a legal perspective, the Vietnamese Government has effectively implemented measures dealing with Covid-19 epidemic within its existing legal framework without enacting any new laws.

5 May 2020 | Covid-19 in Asia: Questions and Conundrums

with Victor V. Ramraj, CAPI Director/Chair in Asia-Pacific Legal Relations; UVic Law Professor

This presentation will highlight the pressing policy questions and conundrums that have emerged from Asia’s experiences with Covid-19 and provide an overview of a collection of essays - with the working title, Covid-19 in Asia: Law and Policy Contexts - that we are putting together in response to the pandemic.

30 April 2020 | Cambodia: Transparency, Politics, and Economy

with Ratana Ly1,2,3, Vandanet Hing1,3, and Kimsan Soy1


The responses to Covid 19, now 122 confirmed cases, have been quite perplexing with loose and strict measures being enforced at different times, or simultaneously, in light of evolving social, economic and political considerations. The Cambodian government took a tougher stance, yet remained strategic and cautious when Covid 19 epicentre moved from China to Western countries. Measures include travel ban from some Western countries and Iran, closing educational institutions and entertainment places, passing state emergency law, delaying Khmer New Year holiday, and temporarily restricting movement between provinces during the Khmer New Year, to avoid community spreading. Yet large number of blue-collar workers still work rather side by side in tight spaces. Relative normalcy continues, leaving most people to make their own judgments as to what extent and when, to go about their everyday living. What is happening may exhibit the rooted problems of transparency, politics, and economy – which require policies and regulations that not only flight Covid 19, but continue to have positive and uplifting impacts on people and society. 

1 Center for the Study of Humanitarian Law at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Cambodia
2 PhD student, UVic Faculty of Law
3 Incoming scholar with the CAPI/UVic Law project "Regulating globalization in South & Southeast Asia" funded by the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Advanced Scholars (QES-AS) Scholarship program

28 April 2020 | South Korea: Democracy, Innovation, and Surveillance

with Sunghee Chung1 and Sujin Lee2


This chapter examines South Korean’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak focusing on its health, economic, and social measures to flatten the pandemic curve since January 2020. Despite its initial spike in coronavirus cases, South Korea has been globally praised for its transparent, innovative, and effective approaches to fighting against COVID-19. The so-called “Trace, Test, Treat” strategy, including intrusive contact tracing, mass testing, and a public healthcare system, has been proven effective in flattening the curve without resorting to a complete lockdown. Furthermore, the government’s transparency and private-public partnership have been instrumental in responding swiftly to the emerging virus while ensuring social and economic stability. However, the Korean model for COVID-19 containment did not come without controversy: the controversy has centered on the extensive use of surveillance technologies to track and monitor individuals, which may result in the limitation of fundamental human rights. This chapter illuminates the dilemma facing Korea between democratic governance and surveillance technology and discusses how to address potential tensions between freedom and public health in a state of emergency through the lens of the Korean model.

1 The Chinese University of Hong Kong
2 University of Victoria Department of Pacific and Asian Studies

Related Resources

Reports, blogs, and statements