Impact On Covid 19 On Human Rights
The life threatening covid-19 pandemic has affected lives of millions around
the world. Originating from Wuhan, china, the virulent virus started spreading
its roots in all walks of life. Many countries were forced to impose lockdown
for an indefinite amount of time. Wearing masks and maintaining social distance
became the norm. Schools, colleges, offices, shopping complexes were shut down.
Daily wage laborers had to return to their native place.
The pandemic is an unprecedented global public health emergency which required
nations to implement extraordinary measures. More than anything, the first and
foremost priority was to save lives. Therefore, countries around the world
imposed lockdowns, restricted movement of people, restricted social gatherings
etc. however, these measures affected lives of people and their security, their
access to healthcare, food, education, work as well as to enjoyment.
In India, the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 was invoked. The idea of containment
zones was introduced in places where there were huge numbers of cases. With no
certainty as to when the virus will be gone, the measures imposed affected the
human rights of the people.
Right to health
Right to health forms an intrinsic part of human rights which is available to
all Indian citizens. The country is undergoing a grave crisis after the
imposition of lockdown. During the early stage of the pandemic, the states and
union territories shifted their attention towards protection of citizens which
involved requesting them to stay safe indoors, closing down all the shops,
hospitals, clinics, pharmacies etc.
The closure of hospitals, clinics led to restrictions on outpatients, inpatient
movements, and laboratory experiments. In addition, with no work and forced to
stay indoors, a large number of people suffering from depression, anxiety were
reported. However, due to the restrictions imposed the right to access mental
health treatment was curbed.
According to a report released by National Health Mission, there was a drop in
the delivery of essential supplements to pregnant women. With less number of
health workers and practitioners at work, a large number of unattended births
were reported. There was a looming fear of pregnant women and newborns getting
affected by the virus, also affected the regular checkups at clinics and
hospitals. This led to number of problems related to pregnancy and child birth.
Right to life
The fear of contracting the disease forced people to purchase all the safety
requirements which included masks, sanitation items etc. However, the
unnecessary stocking of items led to a sharp shortage in food and other
essential requirements. Thus, there was a dramatic change in living standard of
Right to privacy
Article 21 of the constitution speaks about Right to Privacy of an individual.
It is a very important part of human rights. However, during the outbreak of the
pandemic this right was also affected. For instance, the arogya setu app which
was introduced by the government provided the location of those infected by the
virus. The government assured that the app was not designed for safety purposed
and did not intend to violate the privacy of individuals. However, its location
tracking feature sent all the details to the government.
Right to access information
Right to information is considered as one of the principal rights of an
individual. It is the duty of government to provide authentic information
regarding health, its cure and prevention. The government fulfilled its duty by
providing information related to symptoms of the disease, precautions and safety
measures to be taken etc. however, information relating to the number of cases
and number deaths caused by the virus were not provided to the public.
Right to free movement
The right to free movement can only be curtailed under some specific
circumstances. However, the restrictions imposed must be reasonable and
according to due process of law. All means of public transport were shut due to
the imposition of nationwide lockdown. This affected the movement of migrant
workers who were forced to return to their native places. With no income and no
means of transport, they had no option but to travel by foot. Even though the
government made arrangements for food and shelter but the measures were taken
only when the plight of the workers was highlighted by various new channels and
Right to protection
During the outbreak of pandemic, the right to protection was of prime
importance. The protection of health workers was vital because they regularly
came in contact with infected people. However, the shortages in the supply of
PPE kit and N95 masks affected this right.
Right to education
The education sector was the hardest hit. With all the educational institutions
shut down, authorities were forced to adopt virtual mode of learning. However,
the idea of providing online classes affected the right to education of those
who could not afford or did not have proper tools for attending the classes.
The government did take timely actions by implementing lockdown and protecting
people from the virus. However, the government should have been more transparent
about its measures and actions. With proper planning and communicating with its
citizens, it could have protected the rights from being violated. Human rights
are the rights which are available to every citizen irrespective of class,
caste, sex etc. These rights must be protected not only during extraordinary
situations (pandemic) but also during normal days.
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