Collective efforts, self-quarantine necessary to curb corona transmission

Health is the first and the foremost asset which should be protected as in the absence of life there is no livelihood

Stuti Jha Mar 29, 2020

Health is the first and the foremost asset which should be protected as in the absence of life there is no livelihood.
‘Covid-19,’ (coronavirus disease of 2019) was so named by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on February 11, 2020. It was first traced in Wuhan, China in 2019.

The symptoms of this virus are not easy to diagnose. The early symptoms can be confused with the common cold or flu. The symptoms start with fever, followed by problems in the respiratory system, cough, and cold.

The virus is parasitic as compared to bacteria. Comparatively, viruses spread more rapidly than bacteria as the former multiplies with the living cells in the body. Scientists and medical doctors believe that the chain of Coronavirus would break down in hot weather but thrive in cold, damp conditions.

Corona has shown its presence in almost all member states of the United Nations. India is not an exception. It has become a global pandemic. Neither developing countries like India and China, nor developed countries like Italy or the United States have escaped the burn of this deadly virus, whose graph is rising daily.

India has witnessed many outbreaks of epidemic diseases. But, none of them were as widespread and deadly as corona. Prior to Corona’s arrival, India witnessed the H1N1 virus (in 2014-15), better known as swine flu. Gujarat, Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra were the most affected by swine flu. More than 33,000 swine flu cases and nearly 2,000 deaths were recorded in 2014-15.

However, the tale of coronavirus is different.  It entered India and neighbouring Nepal through those who had recently visited foreign countries where the pandemic was already widespread. Slowly and gradually, the whole of South Asia has been engulfed by this lethal virus.

Although India has experienced national emergencies and state emergencies, this time around, it faces a new kind of emergency. The makers of the Constitution had envisaged three forms of emergencies: national emergency, state emergency and financial emergency. This time, the national emergency is a health emergency, thanks to China’s Wuhan dwellers for consuming bats and transmitting Covid-19. Once it started, it spread rapidly through people’s negligent behaviour, lack of hygiene and insensitivity.

Despite this, the state has taken considerable steps to overcome this disaster: It has shown courage in implementing the penal provisions envisioned under criminal laws, along with the epidemic Act. These laws have not been invoked to dismantle the right to free movement, the right to life and liberty and the right to work, but to control and manage the spread of a deadly infectious disease. The motive is to save human lives, which is the first and foremost duty of the state. There cannot be human rights unless there are humans to claim it for.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his two addresses to the nation, first administered a 14-hour curfew to break the chain of transmission and, in the second, ordered a nationwide lockdown, except for essential commodities. He urged people to enter self-quarantine and stay home to prevent and combat Corona.

Different states have sought to implement measures with differing degrees of severity. The Uttarakhand state administration seeks a written note of apology and/or fine from the outliers of lockdown. In Telangana, police have been empowered to open fire at persons who roam the streets for no good reason or violate lockdown orders. Additionally, police officials are rigorously working to implement the lockdown.

Prudent citizens are following the guidelines issued in the public interest. There are NGOs engaged in providing food to people who are far from their homes or do not have sufficient means. The government agencies have also come with ambitious plans to provide grocery items at subsidised rates.

At the same time, we have a significant number of people who are negligent in observing the guidelines issued to control the spread of coronavirus. Their carelessness may turn into a catalyst in spreading the deadly Covid-19. India, the world’s largest democracy, is facing a threat and panic due to corona.  Collectively, we can help the state to break the chain of transmission by adopting strategies like self-isolation, social distancing and quarantine procedures.

(Stuti Jha is Legal Research Associate in Pune; Jivesh Jha is a judicial officer at Janakpur High Court, Birgunj Bench, Nepal)

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