The rights of South Africans enshrined in the Constitution were protected by law only after 1994 and after one of the most painful periods in our country's history. The framers of the Constitution relied on the hard lessons learnt during apartheid. The emergence of the infectious disease, COVID-19, and the government's response to it, pose a serious challenge to this hard-won framework of individual liberty outlined in Chapter 2 of the Constitution.
This policy proposal examines the reasoning behind the government's response to COVID-19 as it relates to the rights of South Africans. An immediate consequence of ignoring these rights are the negative unintended consequences that inevitably arise when individual rights are limited. Simply, when individuals lose some of their freedom, this also implies the loss of the freedom to act in response to crises; a situation which is exacerbated if the loss is due to arbitrary or irrational laws and regulations.
The nature of science also does not lend itself to making public policy that restricts individual rights. Scientists cannot possibly account for each individual circumstance. This does not mean that the government should simply ignore science. In the government's response to public health crises such as COVID-19, science can play an important role in guiding government interventions in the public healthcare sector. But science plays its most vital role in producing educational content for the general public as well as recommendations about how to limit their own risks. This was true of previous pandemics such as HIV/Aids and TB, and it is also true of COVID-19.CLICK HERE to download the full report.
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