Virus Is No Excuse To Trample On Our Rights

David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0

OPINION | March 12, 2020

National Post – Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, explained why he considers it extremely unlikely that the United States will follow Italy’s lead and quarantine a large part of its population, in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus:

“It’s just the antithesis of the freedoms that we theoretically have.” Although Redlener was insistent that government shutdowns of public spaces would be very difficult for Americans to manage, his choice to characterize the freedoms that would prevent such martial law as being “theoretical” was noteworthy.

And it took place in the context of authoritarian countries already showing plenty of disregard for both civil liberties and the truth.

Authorities in the Chinese province of Heilongjiang, for example, threatened the death penalty for citizens who deliberately violated quarantine, while people reporting on coronavirus in the country were arrested or disappeared.

The announcement by Iranian authorities that a 300,000-person task force would be showing up at “every single home” to combat the virus was more intimidating than comforting, given that it came from a regime that is notorious for its violent repression of those who dare criticize it.

Nor did increasing in-person interactions among so many Iranians sound like a very sound public-health plan for tackling an infectious disease.

Authorities in the Chinese province of Heilongjiang threatened the death penalty for citizens who deliberately violated quarantine

And in Venezuela, the president threatened reporters who were conveying information about coronavirus, an illness he says was created by the Americans.

As we are seeing this week, democratic countries are also ready to compromise individual rights to arrest the coronavirus outbreak, sometimes in surprisingly heavy-handed ways, with Italy banning mass gatherings and prohibiting people from leaving their home regions, not to mention putting the whole country under quarantine, and the United States abruptly limiting travel from much of Europe … Read more. 

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