COVID-19 pandemic response in Iran : a dynamic perspective on policy capacity

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

10 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-249
Journal / PublicationJournal of Asian Public Policy
Issue number2
Online published2 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


Iran’s policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates how countries with pre-existing challenges manage acute crises. Already economically weakened by international sanctions, Iran’s government was forced to consider short-term tradeoffs between public health and social stability in pandemic response, with imminent unemployment and food insecurity used to justify a policy pivot from mitigation to economic continuity. This article investigates the policy responses of Iran’s government during the crucial first months of the pandemic, using data obtained through interviews structured around SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and interpreted to elicit insights for policy capacity theory and practice. Explanations for Iran’s initially ineffective pandemic response are found to include weakness in economic policy, failure to coordinate public health initiatives, priority of treatment over prevention, insufficient public engagement, and inadequate healthcare facilities. Policy recommendations emerging from the study are comprehensive and coordinated pandemic management efforts, community-based and proactive approaches, targeted economic stimulus, and a clear policy vision for crisis resolution. The discussion integrates policy capacity into explanations and recommendations to illustrate the applied value of the concept in crisis settings characterized by uncertainty and rapid onset.

Research Area(s)

  • COVID-19, crisis management, policy capacity, social resilience, SWOT analysis