COVID-19 AND THE LAW.
By Barrister Ataubo Buriya Unuase
Corona Virus Disease 2019 ( COVID-19) was in the month of March 2020 declared by the WHO to be a Pandemic. Many people may not understand what an epidemic or a pandemic is. Webster’s Dictionary defines an epidemic as an outbreak of a disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time. It equally defines a pandemic as an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population.
It will be recalled that when COVID-19 first broke out in Wuhan China, a few weeks later it was declared by the WHO to be an Epidemic. But as it spread rapidly to other countries, infecting thousands of people, it was later declared to be a pandemic.
This is not the first time the world is experiencing something as dangerously infectious as this. As far back as 1918, the world was hit with a much more dangerous plague called the Spanish flu. The said flu took an estimated 50 million lives.
The same measures put in place to curb the spread of the Spanish flu are the same measures being put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. Most of these measures may seem harsh, some may seem like the rights of people are being violated because when you look at it with a critical eye, once a person is asked to stay home during a lockdown close to a dozen rights of his are violated. But this is where we say every exception of the law applies though not in totality.
When people are asked to self-isolate for 14 days if they are coming from areas affected by the virus, it is not that they are looked upon as an outcast. It is for their own good, the good of their families and society at large giving the rate at which the virus spreads.
This is because the first person to suffer will be your immediate family members whom you have a close relationship with or others who trust you enough to allow you to commune with them. This reminds me of patient 31 in South Korea who two weeks ago was single-handedly responsible for 60% of all COVID-19 cases in South Korea.
So when we hear of cases of people escaping from quarantine, bribing their way out of quarantine and some using their authority and positions in government to take people out of quarantine, we begin to wonder if they care about others or whether they are aware that they are actually in violation of the law.
This may come as a surprise to many but the Cameroon Penal code in Section 260 stipulates that,
WHOEVER BY HIS CONDUCT FACILITATES THE COMMUNICATION OF ANY DANGEROUS INFECTIOUS DISEASE SHALL BE PUNISHED WITH IMPRISONMENT FROM 3 MONTHS TO 3 YEARS.
With this just being one of the offenses committed, ask yourself this, would you prefer to spend 14 days in isolation on your own terms in the comfort of your home, 14 days in a government facility under tight and stricter conditions or 3 months to 3 years in jail with a possibility of you being given the maximum sentence?
To be continued…
*** Ataubo Buriya Unuase (Barrister) is a graduate from the University of Buea. He obtained his Barrister-at-law certificate from Sierra Leone Law School after which he was called to the Cameroon Bar. He is a former Associate of Senator Barrister Kemende Henry at Posterity Law Office. He is the founder and managing advocate of GOSHEN LAW OFFICE (Ataubo Buriya Chambers).
Barrister Ataubo Buriya is a Human Rights Activists with a keen interest in Women and Children’s rights, and Emi/Immigration issues. He is based in Bamenda, North West Region of Cameroon. He, apart from his other legal engagements serves as Legal counsel for SisterSpeaks237.