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The�outbreak�of the Corona Virus (2019-nCov) that started in the Chinese city of Wuhan (Hubei Province) in late 2019 has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO�declared�that core principles of human rights and health includes accountability, equality and non-discrimination, and participation. It further stated that �participation is important to accountability as it provides checks and balances which do not allow unitary leadership to exercise power in an arbitrary manner�.

The WHO�s�adulation�for the unitary measures of the Chinese government exercising power in an arbitrary manner is a complete contrast to its own human rights principles"

All the states are dealing with the menace of Corona Virus through similar strategies. These phrases though used interchangeably, have slightly different meanings:

  • Isolation�is separating those with confirmed infections from other people, so that they can get better without infecting anyone else.
  • Quarantine�is restricting the movement of, or isolating, people who might have been exposed to an infection but who aren�t yet sick.
  • Social distancing�refers to a slew of tactics meant to keep people from congregating in large crowds, to slow the spread of a virus.

China responded to the outbreak�with�a month-long government cover-up in Wuhan that consequently gave way to spread of the epidemic caused by coronavirus. Chinese police�even persecuted the doctors for the offence of �spreading rumours� when they were trying to warn the public in late December.

The response to an epidemic also determines a country�s treatment of the human rights of millions of people affected by it. The most important one is the right to health, but there are several other rights at stake too.

What has been the effect of Corona Virus on people from Asian countries?

Asian communities around the world have been pushed back, and the Twitter hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus (I am not a virus) has trended in France

The right to health, as guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, provides for the right to access healthcare, the right to access information, the prohibition of discrimination in the provision of medical services, the freedom from non-consensual medical treatment and other important guarantees.

International law states that during a time of public health emergency, any restrictions on human rights should be based on legality, necessity, proportionality and grounded in evidence.

Strict quarantine measures have been imposed in many countries who have closed their doors to those travelling from China or other Asian countries as a combat against the virus.

The Australian government has sent hundreds of Australians to an immigration detention centre on Christmas Island, where treatment conditions have been described�as �inhumane� by the Australian Medical Association as a result of the mental and physical atrocities that happened when refugees were detained there.

Papua New Guinea has refrained people from all other Asian countries to enter its territory, not limited to those with confirmed cases of the coronavirus.�Consequently some Papua New Guinean students were left behind in the Philippines after they were not allowed to board a flight home on the instruction of the Papua New Guinea authorities.

India has twenty-eight positive cases of coronavirus so far.

So could a "Swadeshicoronavirus� make an appearance? And if it emerges, would India be able to detect and handle it?

Internal divide of India and prevalent underlying discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, creed would have further added to the horrors of coronavirus had it been originated in India. It will be interesting to note how this opportunity is milked by the politicians of our country and how lives of millions of people and being called arbitrary is chosen between by the government which is already being heavily criticised for being a forceful driver of econony with fascist intentions.

In addition to this India has an added burden of disease through poor health infrastructure that is already overburdened and overstretched.

In such a situation, formulation of guidelines poses as the biggest challenge along with its implementation. As not all states are infrastructural developed, the hospitals tend to become a node for further infection and make it nearly impossible to prevent outbreaks from becoming epidemics.

International collaboration on disease surveillance needs to be further strengthened and in my opinion, this is more likely to happen through multilateral collaboration where key stakeholders bring in their expertise and financial resources.

Like all other states, India is also quarantining the suspects in order to combat the virus. People who travelled from an Air India Vienna-Delhi flight on February 25 have been asked to follow government protocols after a Delhi resident was diagnosed with the virus.

International law may justify Quarantines, which restrict the right to freedom of movement, may be justified under only if they are proportionate, time-bound, undertaken for legitimate aims, strictly necessary, voluntary wherever possible and applied in a non-discriminatory way. Quarantines must be dealt with caution and humanity. The Human rights of those under quarantine must be respected and protected, including ensuring access to health care, food and other necessities.

Although India has a number of legal mechanisms to support public health measures in an epidemic situation, there is an urgent need to come up with a single elaborate legislation dealing with epidemics. The Epidemic Act 1897 is a century-old blunt act that needs a substantial overhaul to counter the rising burden of infectious diseases both new and old.


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