A rule of law-based response to COVID-19

COVlD-19 has created a global pandemic. World Health Organization provides key considerations about addressing stigma and discrimination, prevention of violence against women, support for vulnerable populations; quarantine and restrictive measures, and shortages of supplies and equipment. UNESCO has shown 72% of the world’s student population has affected temporary closure of educational institutions. It is a step taken to protect the vulnerable population.


It also highlights human rights obligations. Governments have to ensure the protection of its citizens. ‘Right to life’ is an uncompromisable right. On the other hand, media organizations report on COVID-19 infected patients with video footage. It could raise issues with ‘the Right to Privacy’. When these patients return to their villages after the quarantine period, they would be further refused by the local villages.


Imposing a curfew or lockdown would be a wonderful action to promote. isolation. Nonetheless, how would it be possible to secure United Nations SDG ‘No Hunger’. Daily earners are the most affected by such sudden decisions. By enforcing a single decision, fundamental rights such as ‘ freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion would be limited which is a fundamental right.  Therefore all the measures should fit into an effective legal framework which has been developed in line with public health laws and consistent with WHO regulations in respect of civil, political, economic and social rights.

When working from home becomes a reality how would this affect blue-collar jobs? 
Public Security Ordinance is essential to understand the existing laws in Sri Lanka. Ordinance no 02. gives the President the-power to declare ‘Public Emergency’ concerning security and public order. Ordinance no.03 requires the proclamation to be communicated to parliament within ten days. The dissolving of parliament could be questionable due to the impractical nature to have a meaningful democratic election. Reconvene of the parliament is the best available option. Ordinance no 08 and 09 have prevented questioning any emergency regulation or order in any courts of law following the exception of acting in good faith. Ordinance no 14 & 15 has banned police officers from using an offensive weapon such as guns and batons. To what extent could this minimal power use to control the crowd is justified? 

Ordinance 03 has imposed a liability on Every householder residing in Sri Lanka to report with the least possible delay to the police or Grama Sevaniladhari of his town or village of an infected person


Violating curfew
On the other hand no. 16 has given the President power to impose a curfew. If a person proven guilty under this section would be liable for a term not exceeding one month or to a fine not exceeding one hundred rupees or both. Also, it is possible to release a person with a bail by an amount not exceeding five hundred rupees. In Singapore, under s.34(7) of the CTMA, a person would be liable for a fine up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for  a term not exceeding 6 months. Any person could be arrested for violating curfew or not attending essential services under Ordinance No.16  during a pandemic situation.  Another legislation is Contagious diseases Ordinance. Ordinance 03 has imposed a liability on Every householder residing in Sri Lanka to report with the least possible delay to the police or Grama Sevaniladhari of his town or village of an infected person. Any person who neglects this responsibility would be liable for a fine not exceeding twenty rupees. In the same way Ordinance, No 06. States that a person who is infected by Corona must be attended to at a public hospital or any other place provided by the government. The fine is only fifty rupees. Would people value these penalties?


When seeking solutions for this pandemic situation vast areas should be covered. 


It is important to build concrete pathways for post-emergency recovery. In Argentina, a WhatsApp bot was created to answer questions about prevention, symptoms, and general information from city services about COVID-19. Also, a self-testing software was developed and on the first day of launching, 500,000 people took the test using the app. 


General Users can verify daily the budget and execution of expenses related to the Federal Government’s action. Since the school children-are also affected by this pandemic, lessons are taught through Croatian Radio Television (HRT)’ and classes are also available on YouTube immediately after they were aired on television. Also, they have introduced an ‘e-pass/e-permit’. This centralized system would keep a track of the pass holders to identify the cluster of people who are being infected. 

It is best to build trust between government and citizens, through strong communication methods and focusing on reaching vulnerable communities with the needed information


Apart from these measures and many others, countries have taken steps to enact specific laws to face the epidemic in the longrun. From March 23, 2020, all short-term visitors (from anywhere in the world) are not allowed to enter or transit through Singapore. This is a good example for countries like Sri Lanka. The UK has Passed the Coronavirus Act of 2020.


 It  enables the Government to respond to an emergency and manage the effects of COVID-19. Among other things, the Act attempts to increase the available health and social care workforce, ease the burden on frontline staff and contain and slow the virus. Conversely, the act also grants police, immigration officers, and public health officials new powers to detain “potentially infectious persons” and put them in isolation facilities. 


It is best to build trust between government and citizens, through strong communication methods and focusing on reaching vulnerable communities with the needed information. This includes publishing proactive information for affected communities, including economic and social support. In India, experts speculate about guidelines for public-private partnerships in the medical field. Such steps could be taken to meet the demand. To limit people from traveling, the government could seek technological solutions to handle daily tasks. With this new technological step, the focus on Cyber security must increase. All the units should view this situation seriously and these measures should at least continue up to I year. By looking at all the international scenarios if we build a necessary legal framework for the country, the system itself would solve the issue.