Flickering Mental Health During Lockdown

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

Novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19 pandemic (officially designated by World Health Organization WHO) is a major health crisis that has affected several nations in the world. As of now more than 7.5 million cases have been reported and around 0.4 million people have died of this virus. It is the opinion of the renowned Clinical Psychologist Jonathan Porteus that ‘Our society is definitely in a collective state of trauma’.

The lockdown induced by novel coronavirus has brought the lives of people at an absolutely stand-still. Not being able to see the light of day, go to the gym to reduce stress, or see one’s family members and friends can be very lonely and depressing. Currently, around 2.6 billion (accounting for one-third of the world’s population) are living under some kind of lockdown or quarantine. This is arguably the largest psychological experiment ever conducted. Within a week of the commencement of the nationwide lockdown, the number of reported cases of mental illness in India rose by 20%, as depicted in a study by the Indian Psychiatry Society. A review was published recently in Lancet that studied literature on the psychological impact of the quarantine restrictions. According to Lancet the separation from loved ones and curtailment of the movement of people has potentially exposed them to a range of psychological conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress symptoms to anger, confusion, stress, depression, insomnia and emotional exhaustion. Recent news articles have also highlighted the increase in suicide rates and mental health concerns caused by the severe lockdown restrictions. In this article we will discuss the effect of lockdown on various groups of citizens.

Impact On Public in General

The isolation and fear associated with this lockdown is escalating nervousness among people all over the world. A woman with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”) cannot stop disinfecting furniture and kitchen appliances, sanitizing car keys and toys, keeping even vegetables and groceries in the sun. A man suffering from anxiety disorder terms this lockdown as an ‘invisible enemy’ and is finding it very difficult to cope with it. Constant health warnings and alerts are all that he hears. According to Kathryn Kinmond, a psychotherapist in Staffordshire and a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, uncertainty is a key driver of anxiety. “Coronavirus gives rise to lots of uncertainty, and this has particular resonance with people who suffer from anxiety.” It is not only anxiety and OCD that are worrying people all over the world, but also panic attacks can be seen as a response to the pandemic. According to David Crepaz-Keay from the Mental Health Foundation, “One of the things that lead to panic attacks is excessive worrying for unsubstantiated reasons”.

Thus, not only those with pre-existing psychiatric problems but also the elderly population are struggling with greater levels of loneliness and depression. Another man aged 70 years lives alone in an apartment and spends his time reading the newspaper, walking and cooking, but the lockdown has completely cut-off this ties from real people. “These are strange times,” says Pratima Murthy, head of department, psychiatry, at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru. “What we generally prescribe for the elderly is social interaction for their emotional well-being. And now they’ve been told the opposite: to physically distance themselves, even from their grandchildren”, she says.

Amidst this lockdown, we must keep in mind that there is a difference between physical distancing and social distancing. Staying connected through digital platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook, video-calls with family members living far away plays a vital role in fending off anxiety and depressive behaviour. A 25-year old woman lives in Noida while her parents live in Ahmedabad. She calls them thrice a day, asking if they have taken their medicines, eaten food etc. In this time, she is constantly fearful of what would happen if something were to happen to them, and she was not able to reach them on time.

Staying together can be stressful as well. Anita, a homemaker, is drowning mentally and physically. She has to make a special effort to keep her children occupied all day, now that schools are closed, while at the same time keep the house in order. With her husband is working from home, he is not able to help with the household chores or the children either. It was seen that in cases where the parents were quarantined with children, the mental health toll became even steeper. In one study, no less than 28% of quarantined parents warranted a diagnosis of “trauma-related mental health disorder”. For people with dysfunctional family backgrounds, such as living with an abusive partner, dominating and over-indulgent parents can also trigger anxiety and depression.

Impact On Quarantines

We understand that the measures taken by the government to stop this health pandemic, including restrictions on movement, closure of schools and colleges are necessary to curb the spreading of the virus, and in turn to save lives.

However, this crisis is affecting many young people in ways that will risk long-term consequences for their mental health. Almost one in four children living under COVID-19 lockdowns, social restrictions and faculty closures are handling feelings of hysteria , with many in danger of lasting psychological distress, including depression. Their education, relationships and socialising have been severely disrupted and current projections for the economy and the job marketplace will be adding to their stress. 

Due to the pandemic many children are unable to get access to help from the counsellors which they were taking before lockdown and this poses a significant challenge in front of the government. The statistics show that one in four youths with mental health issues cannot get help during lockdown. Children and youth who are already at risk such as those living in challenging home environments or those who lack social support or whose families are already facing poverty are especially vulnerable. Restrictions on the movement and not able to go out of the house have worsened their mental health because there is no escape for them. Another common problem that adds to their anxiety, is witnessing domestic violence and fights amongst family members.

Research shows that feelings of helplessness, loneliness and fear of being socially excluded, stigmatised or separated from loved ones are common in any epidemic, while prolonged stress, boredom and social isolation, as well as a lack of outdoor play, can lead to a higher number of mental health conditions in children, such as anxiety and even depression. A survey by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that 70% of 18 to 24-year-olds are experiencing more anxiety than usual, compared to 47% people above the age of 75. 

Impact On Health Workers                        

Dealing with the pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the mental health of health workers. These people have dealt with many a tragedy, but this is another form of crisis. Over and above all the sickness and death surrounding them, the fear of being infected takes a steep toll on their mental and emotional health as well. This is the time to ask them if they’re all right, and to tell them how to look after themselves.

Frontline medical workers are at risk not only of adverse physical outcomes due to coronavirus, but also of psychological ones. Previous pandemic data, particularly after long durations of quarantine indicates that the health care workers may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and drug use disorders. Preliminary data from China and Italy during the Covid-19 pandemic provide further evidence; health workers in China reported depression (50.3 per cent), anxiety (44.6 per cent) and insomnia (34.0 per cent). Concerns about these data are compounded by high rates of pre-existing mental health and substance abuse disorders in this population, with physicians having high suicide rates.

The pressure to act in a timely manner and successfully diagnose, isolate and treat has been overwhelming, particularly in the midst of intense public and media scrutiny. In addition, due to the increased risk of exposure to the virus, our frontline doctors, nurses and health care professionals fear that they may contract COVID-19 themselves. They are concerned about bringing the virus home and passing it on to their loved ones and family members. Our healthcare staff also reports increased levels of stress when dealing with patients who are unwilling to cooperate or refuse to comply with safety instructions. Feelings of helplessness when dealing with critically ill patients, in the context of limited intensive care beds and resources is commonly reported. The long-term use of protective equipment causes difficulty in breathing and limited access to toilets and water, resulting in subsequent physical and mental fatigue. A very recent study among healthcare professionals at the COVID-19 tertiary infectious disease hospital in China revealed a high incidence of anxiety and stress disorders among frontline medical staff, with nurses having higher incidence of anxiety than doctors. Almost 10% of the quarantine hospital staff reported “high depressive symptoms” up to three years after quarantine.

From studies conducted during the SARS epidemic, we know that quarantine has a serious effect on the mental health of health workers. Symptoms of acute stress disorder, depression, and alcohol abuse were predicted. Even three years later, quarantine was associated with post-traumatic stress symptoms, which were again more serious in health care workers. As a result, many experienced health-care professionals sought to minimize contact with patients. Some didn’t report back to work at all.

Suggestions

Mental responses such as anxiety, depression and panic attacks have an immediate negative impact on our sleep patterns, productivity, concentration and engagement. Therefore, if careful management is not implemented, it can have severe consequences. In the words of Walt Disney,

“Happiness may be a state of mind. It’s just consistent with the way you check out things”.

Lockdown is the best time for self-introspection i.e. time which is spent in exploring oneself and practising self -care. Three self- care steps if practised regularly can prove beneficial – do something that you love [sing, dance, etc], connect with someone you have not spoken to over a long time, and engage with inspiration such as nature, motivational quotes, art, communicating remotely with family and friends Practising mindfulness or meditation can boost mental and physical health. It helps in focusing attention, enhances concentration and calms the body as well as the mind. Feelings of depression can make a person lethargic and slow; on the other hand, anxiety can make a person rush. Therefore, maintaining a proper balance between the mind and body is very important. For this exercising becomes important as it lowers stress levels and gives immediate boost to one’s mood. One of the crucial wellness habits is practising social interaction. Switching to real- time communication is very important. Arranging informal video-calls with friends, family members, relatives can play a pivotal role during missed coffee breaks and other moments. But at the same time restricting from media and social media coverage to prevent it from becoming too overwhelming is also essential. We should obtain news only from credential resources.

The Government and NGOs can also take some steps to ensure self-help interventions are put in place, to help address the needs of the affected populations; educate people about the expected psychological impact and reactions to trauma if they’re curious about receiving it. Make sure people understand that a psychological reaction is normal; launch a selected website to deal with psychosocial issues; confirm that folks with acute issues can find the assistance that they need.

Authors: Soumya Sharma and Kanishka Pamecha from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow.

Editor: Astha Garg, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.

Explained: Policy of vehicle passe

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

The world is currently experiencing a pandemic and fighting to curb the spread of COVID-19. The Government announced nation-wide lockdown for 21 days, which later got extended. Further, certain relaxations were introduced, in effect from 20th April, 2020. People are not allowed to go outside of their home. There were certain restrictions imposed on movement and transportation. The lockdown mainly emphasizes on social distancing by restricting the movement of public from one place to another, in order to prevent community transmission of the virus.

As the entire nation is facing lockdown, all the transportation of non-essential services is being barred. However, the government introduced an e-pass system to serve the citizens who are in need by validating their purpose of travel and emergency. Due to the rapid spread of corona and notable increase in day to day cases, all the policemen and patrolling officers made it mandatory to carry an e-pass during their travel in order to ensure that no one breaks or dis-obey the curfew rules. To regulate the movement of goods and transportation of people, various state governments started issuing the ‘curfew passes’

The vehicle pass is a document issued by the State Government authority with proper identification and authentication. This issuance of vehicle pass is for the public official or the civilians who are involved in essential sectors including health care, police and security etc. To avoid any kind of restriction for the movement of their vehicle within the area, district or state during lockdown.

The need of e-pass emanated because of the lockdown which begin due to spread of nation-wide COVID-19. The people who were participating in supply of goods and were in exempted category for working in essential sectors across the state are provided with e-passes by State Government for their vehicles. E-pass is provided for the vehicle of an individual who is involved in essential services and is the sole mode for the vehicles to move from one territory to another. The absence of this pass restricts the movement of vehicle on any place. Authorities look into all the document provided before granting the e-pass to the people. The person who is approved by the State Government with an e-pass for providing essential services is only allowed for movement of their vehicle.

Criteria for issuing the passes

The world is going through the huge crisis due to which there is more responsibility on the people who work for the nation and its people welfare. The government of different states provides with their helpline number to clear the issues relating to COVID-19 and also help in case of any emergency. During lockdown, the people who provide with essential service to the public are permitted with e-pass. The people who are serving the public and are involved in production and distribution of essential goods during this lockdown are needed to apply with e-pass which after getting approved be used by person without any restriction. The use of these passes will be under the supervision of police.

The e-pass facility can be provided to selective people during this lockdown. If these people belong the essential sector serving the nation, they can be permitted with e-pass. The criteria for issuance of vehicle pass through e-pass are:

  1. Vehicles (car, bike, etc. for emergency purpose)
  2. Hospitals and other health care services
  3. Electricity and water department
  4. Government and bank employees
  5. Media
  6. Ration shops
  7. Police forces
  8. Fire administration
  9. Courier services
  10. Food department
  11. Communication and internet services
  12. Petrol pump

The employees of the above-mentioned categories are permitted to be issued with vehicle passes in order to make it easy for them to provide services essential to the nation.

Legal basis

During this COVID-19 lockdown, the vehicle pass through e-pass is mandatory for movement of vehicle for any emergency purpose or for use by public servants providing essential services. During this lockdown, Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code can be invoked against those who are not following the guidelines in this regard. The violation of any containment measure by any person will be liable be punished under provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 in addition to Section 188 of Indian Penal Code.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has instructed all the states and union territories to consider the driving licenses and other motor vehicle documents that are getting expired on February 01, 2020 and to make it valid till June 30, 2020. This extension is for the lockdown period, so that people should not face any difficulties in renewing the validity of the motor vehicles documents due to closure of the state-run transport offices. The documents under Motor Vehicle rules includes fitness, permits, registration, driving license and other relevant documents.

The efforts been taken by the government to provide hassle free services and transportation of essential goods during this lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in India. The ministry has urged all state to implement the advisory in ‘latter and spirit’ in order to supply hassle free supplies of essential items across the country.

There are certain provisions, which required to be followed by every individual in this lockdown scenario, whether it related to person with vehicle pass or without vehicle pass but these provisions are essential in every aspect. Here, the person under exempted category with vehicle pass must keep these provisions in their list because violation of any of such will encourage punishment or penalty. They are:

  1. Article 51A: Article 51A of the Constitution of India is one of the fundamental duties incorporated by the 42nd Amendment in 1976. Fundamental duties are the duties which must be followed by the citizen to maintain harmony and peace. Along with abiding all the laws and directions issued by the state in public interest. The government has the right to provide us with appropriate direction in time of calamities and being a responsible citizen of the country, we should follow their orders. If citizens are not discharging their obligation towards the state in relation of fundamental duties, the state is entitled to register case against the individual under various provision of Indian Penal Code and more specifically under section 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  2. Section 269 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: The Section 269 of the Indian Penal Code, whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act by which he knows that it will likely to spread infection of any disease dangerous to life shall be punished with the imprisonment of either description for a term of six months or with fine or with both.
  3. Section 270 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: The Section 270 of the Indian Penal Code, whoever malignantly does any act by which he knows and have idea that it likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.
  4. Epidemic Disease Act, 1897: This Act provides for the prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases. The Central Government is satisfied that there is threat with an outbreak of any Dangerous Epidemic Disease to spread, they provide with all preventive measures and prescribe regulation for the same. The violation of any such regulation under this act constitutes an offence under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  5. Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: This section provides that any disobedience to the order duly promulgated by public servant shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term, which may extend to six months or with fine, which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both.

Vehicle permits during lockdown 3.0

There are several measures imposed regarding movement and vehicle usage and its permit during lockdown during this lockdown 3.0. . They are:

  • Interstate movement: Restrictions have been imposed on interstate movement. Interstate movement is allowed only for exempted category like medical emergency, goods transports, police officials, media, etc.
  • Red Zone: The movement of individuals and vehicles is allowed only for permitted activities (exempted category). In case of two-wheelers, only one person allowed, while in case of four-wheelers, two people along with the driver are allowed.
  • Orange Zone: Taxi and Cabs are permitted to resume their services with the condition that they can have one passenger along with the driver.
  • Green Zone: During this 3.0 lockdown, in green zone, buses are also allowed but to operate, the capacity of passenger must be 50 percent i.e., half the actual capacity of a bus to load as per seats.

Critical analysis

The policy of vehicle passes in respect of this vehicle e-pass are issued to the individuals who works under the exempted categories specified by the Central Government during this widespread outbreak of infectious disease COVID-19. The vehicle passes are issued in different state as per the different state rule. Its state authority discretionary power to decide which all categories they want to issue pass and which can work with the department ID card as a proof of exempted category.

  • In Delhi, the Chief Minister, Arvind Kejiriwal decided to issue e-passes to ensure smooth movement of people involved in essential services but he also introduced the color code system for ensuring proper monitoring and record keeping.
  • In Bengaluru, they have their different list for persons for whom e-pass can be passed or for whom only department ID card as a proof is enough for providing essential services to public.
  • In Maharashtra, Police have issued passes for inter-district travel for essential services. Likewise, there are different states with their different guidelines for issuance of passes for movement of the individual in emergency cases and for essential services. The legal basis is concerned that is equal for every individual. Only with the permit from the State Government, some exemptions are provided for movement during the lockdown situation.

Conclusion

India has entered the third phase of nationwide coronavirus lockdown restricted the movement of every individual in the country as per Central Government instruction only exempted category employees who are involved in essential services are allowed for movement will their respective pass issued as a permit. As per the State Government guidelines, vehicle passes are being facilitated online for the individual who are involved in this essential services and emergency conditions. During lockdown Phase 3.0, which has been extended till 17th May, 2020, there are division of zones as per number of cases found positive.

The Ministry of Home Affairs issued detailed guidelines irrespective of zones as red, orange and green zones, which categorized the measures and usage of vehicle usage limit. To avoid any kind of disturbance, the Government issue laws and order with certain punishments and fines. These vehicle passes are issued not only to permit essential services to be provided but guidelines issued also takes proper care of social distancing to avoid any further spread. As, it limit the capacity of bus to hold 50% passengers, cabs with only one passenger etc. The driving license validity period has also been extended till June 30, 2020. Government is taking all safety measures to prevent the nation from the further spread of the virus, while also ensuring that certain exemption are given to the citizens for the smooth functioning of the nation.

Author: Aishwarya Singh from SRM School of Law, SRMIST, kattankulathur, Chennai

Editor: Priyanshu Grover from Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh.

Kanika Kapoor negligence issue: Legal angle

Reading time: 6-8 mintues.

In a time where  COVID-19 poses to be a serious threat to citizens, law and order measures including the 21-day lockdown and the declaration of The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 have been enforced by the central government.

Noted Bollywood Singer, Ms. Kanika Kapoor has been charged under the IPC and Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 for negligence and disobeying government orders to curb the spread of the COVID-19. The singer tested positive for the coronavirus four days after returning to the country from a trip to London. However, following a social media post by Kanika announcing that she has tested positive and that her family and she are in complete quarantine.

However, on the 24th of March, Lucknow Police came forward to state that formal FIRs have been launched against the singer before the Additional Chief District Magistrate under sections 188, 269, 120B of the Indian Penal Code. The complaint was registered by a medical officer against the singer to pursue criminal action, as, after her positive result, Ms. Kapoor attended 3 parties after flying into the country, and even hosted one. Statements have been put forth by her family, stating that Ms.Kapor had come in contact with nearly 350-400 families.

In addition to these families, Ms. Kapoor hosted a party at her home, which saw the likes of former Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, BJP’s Lok Sabha MP Dushyant Singh. Parliamentarians Derek O Brien, Congress leader Jitin Prasada, and Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Jai Pratap Singh have also gone into quarantine after meeting the singer at an event.

Significance:

In the Indian criminal justice system, retributive punishment allows the victim to take his/her perpetrator to Court for the harm caused to them. Every offense under the Indian Penal Code presumes to be invoked when an individual intentionally/unintentionally  (in certain exceptional circumstances) does not honor the duty of care owed to individuals around them.

In this particular case, the uproar highlighted several issues: Firstly, the importance of every citizen’s duty to one another, and where the Epidemic Diseases Act is invoked, these duties are legally mandated to ensure proper containment of the coronavirus.

It is stated that  Kanika Kapoor hosted three parties in Lucknow from March 13-15 and the same was attended by three hundred people, including prominent politicians and sitting members of parliament.

This showed a blatant disregard for the mandatory guidelines laid down by the government, where patients tested positive have to quarantine themselves to undergo treatment. 

Secondly, the rate of mutation and spread of the disease cannot be met by everyone with precautions. Portions of the society, including daily wage workers, municipality cleanliness workers and those under the below poverty line cannot afford to quarantine themselves for a long period.

Thus, where the news of the FIR broke, it was seen to be a situation where the law was broken intentionally by Ms. Kapoor, endangering the lives of many undiscerning individuals. This development came as a highlight of the legal implications of breaking the duty of care we owe as citizens to one another.

The FIR lodged against the singer charges her for negligence, malignancy in spreading a deadly disease and disobedience to an order by a public servant.

Legal principles involved:

Penal punishments for disobeying the guidelines framed by the government are detailed under certain provisions of the IPC, relating to negligence and malignancy in the spread of the disease.

Under section 188 of the IPC, the offense and penalty for disobeying an order promulgated by a public servant have been laid down. The provision lays down that an individual, who is found to be disobeying any guideline issued by the requisite authority may be sentenced to imprisonment for up to six months, or with a fine. The sentencing depends on the imminent danger by the individual’s disobedient acts.

Perhaps most pertinently, this section does not regard intention as the basis of mens rea. Under the provision,  “It is not necessary that the offender should intend to produce harm, or contemplate his disobedience as likely to produce harm”.

The second set of charges that have been filed against the singer is that of Negligence and Malignance, under sections 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code. Under both sections, if a person is found to be found performing acts that increase the danger of spreading the disease, whether intentional or not, they may be fined and imprisoned for some time.

Section 269 relates to unlawfully or negligently doing any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life. Section 270, deals with the more intentional disobedience by individuals and has a term of imprisonment up to 2 years. Thus, what needs to be demonstrated is that there was a negligent act by an individual, establishment or government which is likely to spread infection dangerous to life and no precautions were taken by the individual.

Public reaction:

After the reportage of the news, there was a huge uproar, as many individuals had unknowingly come into contact with Ms. Kapoor.

Additionally, this was seen to be a situation where connotations of privilege and recklessness were attached to the acts performed by the singer, following the positive result of her COVID-19 test. The singer issued a statement, stating that her symptoms had surfaced much later after the airport screening procedure, however, it is seen from the police and medical officers, who initiated the complaint, that this seemed to be a willful act, even after her family was advised to quarantine themselves as well. Since the filing of the complaint, the medical officer, Mr. Sudhir Kumar Ojha, has issued several statements with regards to the singer’s acts.

Thereafter, it was seen that many MPs and celebrities who had come in contact with Ms.Kapoor have quarantined themselves, and expressed their concerns in upholding their end of the bargain in preventing the spread of the virus.

Conclusion:

The whole situation has sparked several discussions, most of them surrounding the importance of the duty of care to one another. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and certain activists have stated that punishment and police action only deter individuals from reporting their symptoms, proving to be a much larger crisis.

Presently, the government has issued guidelines for the national lockdown, in terms of citizens’ rights and duties, and have allowed police to take legal action in case of disobedience. The case is due for hearing on the 31st of March, before the Lucknow Court, and two more FIRs have been registered, as the singer is said to have attended at least three events in Lucknow and Kanpur.

Author: Anita from SLS, Pune.

Editor: Tamanna Gupta from RGNUL, Patiala.