Coronavirus disease (hereinafter referred to as COVID-19) is the biggest
cause of concern all around the world today. It originated in China in a seafood
market of Wuhan (though the exact animal source is not ascertained) and became
epidemic in that region. Due to its novel and communicable character it was soon
declared a ‘pandemic' by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
History Of Infectious Diseases
As per the definition from WHO, Infectious diseases are caused by pathogenic
microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi; the diseases can
be spread, directly or indirectly, from one person to another. If one looks
into the website of WHO, one can find a list of infectious diseases which have
impacted the humankind. Relooking at the history of such infectious diseases
(limiting the review to pandemic diseases beginning the 21st century) one can
realise the importance of medical research and preemptive steps to preclude
their recurrence (though this may not be an exhaustive list it gives the extent
The Spanish Flu (H1N1 virus) occurred post world war 1 in the year 1918 when the
world was not prepared to tackle such infection. It infected 500 million people
and claimed the lives of more than one tenth of them. Lesson learnt was the
betterment and improvisation of public health facilities to contain the virus at
early stage and treat the affected at the earliest.
Hong Kong Flu (H3N2 virus) similar to the Spanish Flu occurred in the year and
claimed the lives of about one million people globally. Lesson learnt was the
vital role of vaccinations to preclude such recurrences.
AIDS (HIV Virus) cases started occurring in 1981 and are prevalent till date.
Many people in this world are HIV positive, and it has claimed the lives of
about 32 million people globally. However it is not an air borne infection and
is a Sexually transmitted disease. There has not been a cure for AIDS but
antiretroviral therapy medications slow the effect helping the person lead a
Swine Flu (novel H1N1), infected more than 60 million people in the year 2009
and caused deaths ranging between 151,700 and 575,400. A kind of zoonotic virus,
it was transmitted from pigs to humans. A lesson learnt from this experience was
how quickly a virus can spread at the blink of an eye and therefore additional
health care preparedness was pertinent to tackle such viruses in future. Even
the countries investing hugely on their healthcare and allocating hefty budgets
could not react to its spread.
Ebola Virus occurred in the year 2014 but was not a global pandemic in the sense
of its geographic spread. It was limited to the West African region but was
deadly enough in its impact claiming more than 11,000 lives. Here lesson learnt
was the virus infected countries least prepared to tackle the spread.
Finally, Coronavirus disease became a pandemic on March 11, 2020 (by WHO).
Despite lessons learnt earlier, especially from the swine flu experience, there
was lack of preparedness. The countries with high health expenditure are
suffering due to this. Italy has recorded the highest number of cases and the US
is no less in terms of cases.
Covid-19 is caused due to the virus named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The name comes from its crown-like structure due to
the pointed projections coming out of the circumference, as can be seen from the
In the year 2003, a virus (namely SARS-CoV) belonging to the same genus as that
of the virus causing COVID-19 had originated in China and resulted in 8000
cases. However SARS-CoV-2, has claimed 67,594 lives and 1,210,956 cases.
Therefore both are different and hence require a different treatment.
RT-PCR (Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction)test is being conducted
to detect the virus. RT converts RNA to DNA as COVID 19 is caused due to an RNA
virus and PCR increases the quantity significantly, doubles it, makes it
sufficient for it to get detected.
Antibody tests have been conducted in South Korea. When the body is attacked by
foriegn antigen antibodies are released in response to counter them. However the
body takes time to produce antibodies. So doctors rely on both these tests to
detect a patient.
In an article it was satisfactorily explained why Covid 19 impact could
perhaps not be that grave in Indian scenario. Author highlighted a few points
like the epigenetic factors which are innate in Indian population due to food
habits, environment etc. Another interesting aspect was the role of Human
Leukocyte Antigen HLA (or simply immune response genes) in Indian population.
These help as support system to T cells (they kill the pathogens also called as
special ops of the immune system) by identifying the pathogen and
facilitating the attack on them. Such microbial load tolerance level is not
present among European/white skin races he puts in. This is also observed from
the reported deaths when one looks across the geographic spread of infection.
Religion Against Covid-19
Religion is the opium of the masses 
World comprises of Christians (31%), Muslims (24%), Hindus (15%) which is about
70% of the world population. Understanding the position of these major
religions on the pandemic is helpful in light of the speculations and events
that are turning around for instance Tablighi Jamaat's Nizamuddin Markaz
gathering in New Delhi.
Without getting into the politics of matter it is clear that there should be
complete social distancing and such gatherings are condemnable and should be
avoided and dealt with strictly. In one of the briefings by Jt. Secretary of
Health Ministry it was said that the rate of doubling of COVID-19 cases has
increased to 7.4 days which would have been 4.1 days had Jamaat not been held.
Pope Francis has announced to give special blessings to the world to fight
COVID-19 which is rather uncommon as such blessings are generally given during
Easter and Christmas. He has also appealed for unity and called for prayers to
respond to the disease.
Similarly, The Prophet has said:
If you hear that there is a plague in a land, do not enter it; and if it
(plague) visits a land while you are therein, do not go out of it (Sahih Bukhari).
Which speaks for itself that lockdowns and quarantine is for the larger welfare
of the people when the land is infected with a deadly virus.
Even in hinduism, the religious offerings and conduct is expected to be done
with clean hands and hygiene. Also the concept of omnipresence of god paves the
way to stay at home and pray as god is everywhere. Therefore one need not visit
dharmic or religious sites or temples during this pandemic.
Laws Dealing With Covid-19
Law is with us from cradle till the grave
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) recognizes Right to health and
ancillary rights and is guaranteed under International Law. Article 25 of UDHR
clause 1 says, Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the
health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing,
housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to
security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age
or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. 
Even the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESC)
hold The Right to health as an essential human right.
International Sanitary Convention is the law dealing with situations of outbreak
of infectious diseases. Even there the quarantine and travel restrictions are
justified to contain the spread of infection and the right to liberty of an
individual can be curtailed.
In the case of India, Public Health is under the State list in the Indian
Constitution (entry no. 6 in List II) which means that this domain is under the
ambit of different states respectively. In a landmark case of Consumer Education
and Research center and Ors. vs. Union of India (UOI) Right to Life under
Article 21 of Indian Constitution was given a wider interpretation to include
Right to clean and healthy environment and the Right to Health.
As far as the deterrence of the law goes, those violating the government
directions are to be booked and punished under relevant sections of relevant
laws. For instance, Chapter IV of Indian Penal Code contains sections to deal
with the violators. Sections 269 and 270 of IPC preclude one from spreading the
infectious disease and puts a duty of care on an individual towards the society
at large. Under Section 271 and 188 of IPC, punishment is attracted to the acts
in violation of quarantine rule issued by public authority under GoI.
Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 (one of the smallest Act) is a special law to
tackle such situation
on similar lines with that of provisions mentioned in the preceding paragraph.
There are few other laws being used by GoI to tackle the spread of the infection
but are almost moribund and not precise and direct in nature.
A Case Against China
China's response in dealing with COVID-19 has triggered anger among a battery of
lawyers who are now ready to sue China for reparations for causing irreparable
loss of lives and economies. Different estimates have shown unprecedented loss
in the world economy and China is being accused for its delay in sharing of
information with the WHO.
International Health Regulations which are binding in nature (of the WHO) among
the member states encourage and direct member states to report such incidences
of outbreak within 24 hours.
China has also thereby violated the Responsibility of States for Internationally
Wrongful Act, 2001 (of the UN).
Different allegations from the International Council of Jurists (ICJ) have come
forward accusing China of not only developing the virus but also planting the
infected people across the world.
Only time will reveal the true intent (if any) of the Chinese to wage a war
Every civilized society, citizens can claim their right against the state only
if they respect and follow their duties and obligations diligently, which is the
essence of the Hohfeldian matrix which establishes legal relationships.
Therefore the citizens must follow the mantra of 3 ‘H', i.e, Hygiene, Home and
Firstly, Hygiene is necessary as the virus deposits on the surface and the WHO
has stressed upon repeatedly washing of hands and keeping them clean.
Secondly, people are requested by all the governments of almost all the
countries affected with the virus to stay at home and follow the quarantine and
lockdown period to contain the spread and preclude the virus from spreading to
society at large. Therefore mass gatherings are strictly looked upon and freedom
of movement should be restricted.
Thirdly, history pertaining to travel must not be hidden from authorities. For
instance people travelling from abroad took paracetamol tablets before landing
in India to conceal any signs of fever which is a symptom of COVID-19. Also,
people are expected to report to the designated numbers or helplines in case
they suffer from any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19.
As far as the role of the government goes, Delhi CM Kejriwal had recently come
out with a ‘‘5-T action plan'' which is self-explanatory and can be considered
positively by all other stakeholders and authorities. He emphasised upon
Testing, Tracing, Treating, Team-work, Tracking & monitoring. All these are
necessary to stem out the infection from its roots.
GoI had recently announced the PM CARES fund and we have seen numerous
personalities donating for the cause. Also the GoI announced various economic
benefits for the poor and the health workers (Gods in white costume) under
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Scheme which include direct benefit transfers and
food security related benefits. It must be ensured that all these schemes are
When it comes to laws to tackle infectious diseases, it is high time that in
such situations a strong law in the hands of the Centre is provided considering
that the colonial era law (Epidemic Diseases Act) was a hurriedly drafted law to
tackle bubonic plague in the year 1896.
Using it today is like fighting the world war with a sword. Had Public Health
(Prevention, Control and Management of Epidemics, Bio-terrorism and Disasters)
Bill 2017 been passed, it would have helped in dealing with the situation in a
much effective manner. Considering emerging areas like bioterrorism and novel
infections it is the need of the hour to have a robust law at place to tackle
Internationalism and globalisation is integral to any economy's growth. Due to
WTO or opportunities abroad people travel to favourable destinations for various
purposes and there is always a chance of imminent threat from foreign soil.
Today, the world is more integrated and united to fight against problems
threatening mankind like terrorism, human rights, environment and global
warming, diseases, etc. without any geographic limits or race. This notion is
encapsulated in a famous Sanskrit dictum vasudhaiva kutumbakam which means the
world is one family. With that Mantra all stakeholders need to unite and fight
against this infection to restore the lives of people and the economy.
- COVID-19, Situation report-77,WHO (06.04.20)
- https://who.sprinklr.com/ visited on 06.04.20
visited on 06.04.20
visited on 06.04.20
- Karl Marx views on religion
visited on 06.04.20
- https://www.whyislam.org/on-faith/diseases/ visited on 06.04.20
visited on 06.04.20
- Consumer Education and Research centre and Ors. vs. Union of India (UOI)
and Ors. (AIR 1995 SC 922)