Human Rights vs Lockdown
Week of 11th May 2020
In the middle of a human-to-human transmission of deadly COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Germans have taken to the streets to protest against lockdown, essentially defying science that they can get sick or spread germs to others. Or perhaps they don’t believe in science of transmission or how deadly COVID-19 is. In any case, the protest was about isolation measures infringing their human rights to freedom of movements.
Human rights to freedom is not a right obtained at birth. It is a right obtained as a resident of a specific country, guided by laws and regulations. Ie, a human’s right to freedom can be different from country to country.
As the world sees orderly lockdown in mostly Asian countries to disorderly protests mostly in democratic west, who best to ask whether the lockdown breaches human rights or not than lawyers. Specifically, we have chosen lawyers in the UK to address this. And clearly, even if lawyers cannot have a united conclusion, this is a matter that is more complex than one realizes.
Arguments validating the lockdown:
Leo Davidson’s “The Coronavirus lockdown does not breach human rights”
Chris Daw’s “England’s Coronavirus lockdown is lawful. Heavy-handed police enforcement isn’t”
Arguments against the lockdown:
A simplified extract of Francis Hoar’s “A disproportionate interference: the Coronavirus regulations and the ECHR”
From the web:
by Chris Daw
England's Coronavirus lockdown is lawful. Heavy-handed police enforcement isn't
UK Human Rights Blog
by Francis Hoar's (simplifed extract)
A disproportionate interference: the Coronavirus regulations and the ECHR
From our Chief Opinionator:
Perhaps it is another matter of culture
When a highly educated government employer in New York City lamented to me about the lockdown, that “every morning I wake up in disbelief that I live in a democratic society”, I was frankly disgusted and appalled.
While I leave it to the lawyers to argue if the lockdown is or isn’t legal, from my opinion, I see defying the lockdown as committing self-harm and harming others that may lead to manslaughter. Is this an exaggeration? Perhaps. However, if the nature of my work means I have to go to work every day, such as sanitation department, and I get infected by rebellious individuals who defied the lockdown. Why can I not sue them for intentionally causing bodily harm? Just like drunk driving, the law is enacted to protect you and also to those whom you may harm while driving under the influence. The current lockdown in the middle of a pandemic is the same, it is an extreme measure that stops you from unintentionally harming yourself and others.
Unfortunately it is no longer a matter of whether you have a right to be out and about anymore, but a matter of not having a right to get others (and yourself) sick and perhaps resulting in death.
In Asia, we have not seen large scale protests of the lockdown. Some attribute it to communistic societies not having a right to protests. This argument is highly flawed because democratic Asian countries such as South Korea have not protested either. So I shift to thinking perhaps it’s a cultural upbringing of respecting others in a community.
Traditional Asians focus on 3 generations of a family. Elders are taken care of by younger generations, as they had once taken care of them. As the virus is more deadly towards older population especially those with health issues, the protective instinct of youngsters over their parents / grandparents naturally grew. The less selfish Asians realize the lockdown isn’t just to protect yourself, but your older generations whom you live with, or visit at least once a week. It is a selfless act to protect others around you, including not overwhelming medical workers whom your parents might be one of.
The pandemic is nothing to cheer for, but perhaps we can learn to be more selfless and act more responsibly through this episode. Think beyond yourself.