Curfew may or may not be lifted

A police checkpoint along Mead Road near the PRB flats in Nabua. Picture: ATU RASEA

Covid-19 one year on and the world has gone through a series of lockdowns and curfews.

The unprecedented nature of the pandemic led to adoption of immediate measures to curtail and contain the spread of the virus but implying restrictions.

Some of these measures were praised that showed positive results in containment, but later raised questions about whether or not to have a curfew. The huge uproar happened when Fiji’s Women’s Crisis Centre co-coordinator said “the national curfew has to go … Fiji has had no community transmission of COVID-19 for a very long-time “(FT, March 26, 2021) as concerned about “the spike in domestic violence cases which could be linked to the curfew”. Further she questioned “the rationale behind the restriction on movement and asked whether it was being enforced to control citizens … it is a human rights violation, limiting and restricting movement of people” (FT, 26 March 2021). She questions the view “shared by Acting Commissioner of Police … that people wanted the curfew to remain because it kept crime rates down”.

Professor John Tobin of University of Melbourne, in his article “COVID-19 and Curfews” stated managing COVID-19 has divided Victorians with some believing that their human rights are at risks, particularly when it comes to curfew while others stating that his is not about human rights, but it is about human life.

Further it stated government has an obligation to take all reasonable measures to protect against threat of life, so when taking measures to protect the right to life, the government has had to restrict and interfere with other human rights.

This researcher stated “interference with a human right does not mean that right has been violated. Most human rights can be subject to limitation”.

Further, he stated that any restriction or interference need to be assessed in terms of satisfying four requirements of legality, legitimacy, suitability and necessity (https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/covid-19-and-curfews). National curfew may or may not go?

The answer to this question depends on the decision of the government, stakeholders and policymakers. But this article highlights the implication of curfew and its ramifications during the COVID-19 era around the world.

World under curfew The globe is at war against the contagious pandemic and still not achieved the victory over it. Several vaccinations have been certified, but still many places have witnessed the surge in infected cases.

New waves of infection and variants have hit hard on developing economies. On March 13 2021, the Kenyan President extended the nationwide overnight COVID-19 curfew for 60 days to battle a third wave of infections in East Africa (FT, March 13, 2021). Further, his report stated another measure added to this by Kenyatta was banning “political gathering for 30 days, ordered strict limit on attendance at church services and told bars and restaurants to close by 9pm”.

Netherlands night curfew is valid from 21.00 to 4.30, based on justification “to prevent people from visiting each other and gathering in groups” and the report stated based on research that night-time curfew helps to reduce the spread of virus (https://www.government.nl/topics/coronavirus-covid-19/curfew).

Even Maharashtra in India imposes night curfew from March 28 2021 in order to curb rising cases of COVID-19; as the authorities do not want to impose lockdown (Hindustan Times, Mumbai News).

Many cities in India are have imposed lockdowns or night curfews in certain areas like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttarakhand.

The Burmuda Government is not far behind. It has re-introduced curfew from midnight to 5am and businesses have to be shut down at 11pm (Finighan, March 3, 2021).

Their government shows no joy in re-implementing such measures, but these methods are means to control any outbreak in order to contain the virus.

As per The New York Times reported “The city of Miami Beach, worried about big crowds filling the streets of South Beach and the threat of a resurgent coronavirus, had moved up its curfew in an effort to shut down late-night spring break partying it said had gotten out of control”. The measures are imposed to bring the situation under control.

In the Pacific Islands, Tonga renewed COVID-19 restrictions for another month in March and night time curfew will continue from midnight to 5am (Tonga wires/Pacnews).

In Fiji, curfew imposition under TC Ana also led to immense uproar but The Fiji Times editor-in-chief rightly stated in editorial No irresponsible behaviour please (Fiji Times, Feb 1, 2021) where he gave caution to those who are “willing to test Mother Nature … some people were still being complacent and ignored warnings … we must stay away from flood-hit areas. It is in our best interest that we strictly adhere to instructions from the State”.

In regard to above cited criteria for restrictions raised by Prof Tobin, the legality and legitimacy are justifiable, but some doubts are raised on issues of suitability and necessity, as the chief health officer has indicated there was no medical basis for this restriction.

There is also no evidence that the risk of COVID-19 transmission is greater at night than during the day when people can move about for the four essential reasons …

In the case of the curfew, the question would be whether it is really necessary given the strict restrictions already imposed as to when someone can leave their home”.

Safety and well-being Safety is the topmost priority, although positive criticism is a part of democratic expression.

Curfew is introduced not to cause disruption to anyone, but although this can occur for others, systematic enforcement of curfew and in-advance strategic thinking will minimise opposition and strongly validate the administration’s decision.

No one likes restricted mobility and interruption on human rights, but if it is done for the sake of protection and well-being, the reasonable mind can accept this step as justified until the world defeats this pandemic.

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