Following the alarming increase in the number of corona virus cases in India, the Karnataka Government has issued an advisory to control the recent outbreak of corona virus or COVID-19.
The notification namely ‘The Karnataka Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020’ was immediately implemented, for a year since its initiation. The new rules will allow the district administration to take actions to ensure that the public takes necessary precautions to constrain the potentially fatal disease from spreading further.’
March 11 coincidently also happened to be the day the virus was declared as a pandemic by WHO. A pandemic refers to diseases that are infectious and widespread over several countries, unlike regional epidemics. The organization has recommended ‘social distancing’ as a measure to hinder its development. WHO has been severely criticized by countries for its delayed response? Donald Trump, the president of the United States of America has announced that it will withdraw its funds. The country which accounts for 20% of WHO’s funds happens to be the worst affected country in the world by the disease.
The state is the leading state in the country to issue notifications in an attempt to curb its rampant increase and has put the whole world in frenzy. The amendment has been introduced as an amendment to the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
The Epidemic diseases act was enacted by the British in February 1897. It was meant to prevent the spread of the deadly Bubonic plague which was rampant during the 1800s and is said to have killed almost a third of the total population of Europe. It allowed the government to restrict people from gathering in large numbers.
Section 2 of the Act gives powers to the states to make amendments in light of an outbreak when the present provisions are insufficient for serving its purpose. It also allows the government to inspect all travelers and also segregate and provide temporary accommodation to persons suspected to have contracted the disease. It was last implemented in 2018 to control the spread of cholera in Gujrat and the spread of dengue and malaria in 2015 in Chandigarh.
Although it has given limited powers to the Central Government. The ED act empowers the center to prescribe rules for inspection of ships and vessels leaving and arriving at any port in India.
The states, on the other hand, are empowered to take all necessary actions to protect the public. The Karnataka government has implemented this section of the act as a precautionary measure a step which has been followed by other states too.
The Regulations as per the new Act
Describing it as a ‘dangerous epidemic disease’ the state has directed all state and private hospitals to have flu corners for screening suspected cases of COVID-19. The move is the state’s response to the Kalaburagi case.
The regulations have mandated all government and private hospitals to have flu corners for screening suspected cases of COVID-19. The hospitals also record travel history and any possible ways the suspect might have contracted the disease by coming in contact with a suspected or a confirmed case. These suspects will be quarantined as a safety measure in case they show late symptoms or to prevent further transmission.
A person showing symptoms has to be immediately isolated in a hospital and also has to inform the district health office about the same so that they can take immediate action. The designated helpline number is 104.
The samples collected by the authorized labs should be collected according to the Union’s guidelines. People with a travel history from any of the virus-infected countries have to immediately notify the authorities so that they can take necessary precautions. In case a suspected case refuses to cooperate, the authorities are allowed to forcibly admit that person for 14 days until the lab reports say otherwise.
The state was first in the country to confirm the death of a 79-year-old on 8th March due to corona virus following which a spike was observed in several other states like Kerala and Maharashtra.
The notification has also directed all districts with COVID cases to:
1. Seal the area
2. Block all entries and exits from the area
3. All schools, offices and other forms of public gathering have to remain closed
4. Restraints on the movement of vehicles
5. A building government or private will be used as a containment unit for isolating cases
6. All government officers of the said district will be at the disposal in order to achieve the containment measures.
Additionally, a few private labs have now been authorized to test despite the notification instructing otherwise. Any person, institution or organization violating regulations issued by the state government, he/she/it will be punished under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
Impact and other action were taken by the government
All companies except those of essential services have been directed to advise their employers to work from home. The Karnataka State Government has also issued a circular to employers directing them to grant COVID patients a paid leave of 28 days.
The onset of the disease has caused major economic repercussions. The IMF has officially declared a recession worse than in 2009. It has also put all contracts into jeopardy but the clause of Force Majeure should protect all parties who will not be able to perform the contract. Although this clause will only be applicable if implicitly mentioned in the contract. Normally used as a defense for the Act of God, war, earthquakes, etc., courts will examine whether the pandemic did affect the execution of the contract.
On 5th March Ministry of Health & Family Welfare advised people to avoid mass gatherings. On 11 March the center delegated power to the health ministry to intensify its preparedness to contain the outbreak. A 21 days lockdown was implemented on 24th March by the central government. They also implemented the Disaster Management act, 2005 to deal with the pandemic. The lockdown was further extended to 3rd May.
The lockdown despite its effects on the economy is seen as a good move since it has effectively reduced the number of cases than earlier predicted. Although some criticized its abrupt implementation which caused huge gatherings on the night of 23rd March, 2020. In spite of taking timely action, the government did not seem to have considered the repercussions of a lockdown on the daily wagers and people who work out of their home state.
The epidemic also brought to our attention the unpreparedness of all nations to tackle such situations which have caused the death of nearly a million. Italy, one of the leading countries in healthcare happens to be one of the worst affected countries.
‘The Karnataka Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020’ is seen a good move and other states seemed to have followed suit. Considering its population India should take special measures to update and advance its legislations and also for better implementation. We are using a pre-independence law as our defense in a time that is so technologically advanced.
“The views of the authors are personal“
Frequently asked questions
What is the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic?
A pandemic is a disease which is spread over several countries unlike an epidemic which is generally local like the Nipah virus
What is the epidemic diseases act?
An act implemented by the British in the 19th century to curb the spread of bubonic plague prevalent during its rule in India
What are the restrictions included in the act?
One has to practice social distancing, all public places like schools, offices, malls, etc. will remain closed. There are restrictions regarding vehicular movement. There will be no interstate commutation. Districts which are serving as a hotspot have more restrictions
To whom will this be applicable?
Since the act mainly empowers the state to take necessary precautions this amendment will be applicable only to the state of Karnataka.