The Council on Foreign Relations has cancelled a roundtable called “Doing Business Under Coronavirus” which was scheduled to be held inNew York due to the spread of Covid-19. CFR has also cancelled other in-person conferences that were scheduled from March 11 to April 3, including roundtables in New York and Washington.
Meanwhile in India, the cabinet secretary announced that all states and Union Territories should invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 by means of which all advisories issued by the Union health ministry and state governments from time to time are enforceable. The decision was taken at a meeting organised in Delhi by the cabinet secretary.
“It was decided that all states/UTs should be advised by MoHFW to invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 so that all advisories being issued from time to time by the Ministry of Health Welfare/State/UTs are enforceable,” the ministry said in a statement.
The head of the World Health Organisation also officially characterised the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic on Wednesday. “This is the first pandemic caused by the coronavirus,” WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said during a news conference.
What is the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897?
The colonial-era Epidemic Diseases Act was introduced by the British to tackle the epidemic of bubonic plague that broke out in the then state of Bombay. It was passed in 1897. The then Governor-General of colonial India had conferred special powers upon the local authorities to implement the measures necessary for the control of epidemics.
The first section describes all the title and extent, the second part explains all the special powers given to the state government and centre to take special measures and regulations to contain the spread of disease. The second section has a special subsection 2A empowers the central government to take steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic, especially allowing the government to inspect any ship arriving or leaving any post and the power to detain any person intending to sail or arriving in the country.
According to the provisions of Section 2 of the Act, which describes the powers of the government, “When the state government is satisfied that the state or any part thereof is visited by or threatened with an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease; and if it thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law are insufficient for the purpose, then the state may take, or require or empower any person to take some measures and by public notice prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public. The state government may prescribe regulations for the inspection of persons travelling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease”.
The third section describes the penalties for violating the regulations in accordance with Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 3 states, “Six months’ imprisonment or 1,000 rupees fine or both could be charged out to the person who disobeys this Act.”
The fourth and the last section deals with legal protection to implementing officers acting under the Act.