Feb 24, 2022

Covid-19 Spike: What actions can the Government take?

Active Covid-19 cases in India rose for the fifth consecutive day and went past the 1.5 lakh mark again after a gap of 17 days, according to Union Health Ministry data on Monday. According to the Ministry, the surge in active cases is due to Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh reporting a spike in the daily infections.


Typically, the Government response to an epidemic, such as Covid-19, involves two primary laws – the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Covid-19 is both an epidemic as well as a declared disaster in India.


What are the Government’s powers under the law?

The Central and State Governments have the power to take special measures and prescribe regulations to prevent the spread of a dangerous epidemic disease or disaster. The Government can take several actions to control the spread of the Covid-19 disease by restricting spread and movement by enforcing lockdowns or curfews. For example, the Government can regulate interstate travel in India.


How are lockdowns imposed during Covid-19?

The Government can use lockdown to prevent the further spread of the disease. The National Disaster Management Authority issues a set of orders requesting all Government Ministries/Departments (including State/Union Territory Governments) to take effective measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the country. 


The Authority can issue guidelines on how the lockdown should be implemented, and can request the government to comply with them and implement them strictly. These lockdown orders are published on the Ministry of Home Affairs website.


How are services affected by the lockdown?

During the lockdown period, the Government provides and allows the provision of many essential services, whereas non-essential services are temporarily suspended. For example, essential services like medicines are available while non-essential services like amusement parks may be stopped for some time. Some of the services available also depend on the State Government, so it is important to know the directions given in your state.


How is a curfew different from a lockdown?

Curfews are imposed for smaller areas such as specific districts or States, to prevent the localized spread of Covid-19 based on the number of cases in that particular area. Curfews are usually imposed for shorter durations of time, and even essential services may be unavailable during a curfew period. For example, the Karnataka government can impose a night curfew in Bengaluru, asking people to stay within their houses from 11 PM to 6 AM.


How are curfews imposed?

Curfews are usually imposed by passing orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. A Section 144 order can be directed either to a particular individual, group of persons residing in a place, or to the public in general when visiting a particular place. 


What are the punishments for violating a Covid-19 lockdown or curfew?

Some of the punishments are:


Offence Punishment
Intentionally doing an unlawful or negligent act which is likely to spread the infection of any life-threatening disease.   Jail time up to six months and/or a fine. 
Knowingly disobeying a public servant’s lawful order restricting the person from committing a certain act.  If it causes danger to human life, health or safety – Jail time up to six months and/or a fine up to Rupees one thousand.


What can you do?

The World Health Organisation recommends that to prevent infection and to slow transmission of COVID-19, you should:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.
  • Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
  • Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.