THE LAW VERSUS THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
Imagine you are in a crowded bus, on your way to visit your grandmother who lives at the other side of town. You’re reading an article detailing the recent confirmation of coronavirus in Ghana. You are healthy and happy. Then, someone starts sneezing repeatedly on the bus; hefty, loud ones which spray the leather seats with fluid. She adamantly refuses to cover her nose. Now, let’s make it even worse. The person is sitting right next to you, and you know for a fact that you cannot hold your breath for an entire car ride from Tema Station to Nungua. Only one panicked thought runs through your mind, what if she has coronavirus?
Well, even if she does, there isn’t much you can do about it. You see, everyone in Ghana is assured of their freedom of movement and personal liberty under articles 21 and 14 respectively of the Constitution, 1992. So, the sneezer has the same right as you to be on that bus, snot in her nose and all. However, the Constitution, in a perfect balancing act, declares under article 12 that the enjoyment of rights may be limited for some purposes including the enjoyment of the rights of others. In furtherance of that circumstance, both articles 21 and 14 allow for the freedom of movement and personal liberty to be curtailed for public health considerations. Article 14 is more blatant when it declares that the personal liberty of a person may be curtailed “in the case of a person suffering from a contagious disease”.
This obviously do not mean you can throw Ms. Corona off the bus. The law still protects her. How? Let’s consider the Public Health Act, 2012, Act 851. The Act allows for a medical officer to cause a person suspected to be suffering from a communicable disease to be removed to a health facility or designated place. It also allows the Minister of Health to declare an area for the purpose of quarantining such persons. Simply put, a person who shows symptoms of COVID-19 can be detained contrary to her freedom of movement until it is certain the person is not infected.
So, let’s imagine again. You’re in that bus, earphones plugged in. No one sneezes uncontrollably because that person was quarantined once she began to manifest the symptoms. You eventually meet your elated grandmother and she hugs you tightly. Life is good.
By: Martinson Kwadjo Yeboah Bediako
Word count: 400