‘Govt should reveal localities of patients’

Kathmandu, March 25

The government is not revealing the details of coronavirus patients’ localities out of privacy concerns. The government has not revealed to the public which area did the first, second and third coronavirus positive cases come from, but lawyers say coronavirus patients should have limited right to privacy, as it was a pandemic that threatened the entire civilisation.

Senior Advocate Bipin Adhikari said while the government was justified in not revealing the names and other personal details of COVID-19 patients on account of everybody having the right to privacy, the government decision not to reveal the localities/areas where COVID-19 patients lived before being hospitalised was not right. “The government does not need to give the name and age of COVID-19 patients but it can tell the public where they lived because that would alert the public to take necessary precaution in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic,”

Adhikari said. Right to privacy, he added, should be protected mainly to protect patients from being victims of stigma and hate crime or violence, but if the government reveals the area where patients lived before being hospitalised, it would serve the purpose of protecting the patient’s privacy and make the local public aware of the risk of infection and the need to take precautionary measures.

Advocate Pankaj Kumar Karna said the government would be justified if it limited the patients’ right to privacy by revealing some details that could alert locals of the risks of infection. “This is not a normal situation, so all the rules of right to privacy should not apply.

The government should issue directives to address the right to privacy issues in times like these,” he said.

He added that the government should maintain a balance while protecting the rights of a patient to get treatment and live a dignified life in society. Karna added that individuals who had travelled from COVID-19 affected countries should also fulfil their responsibility of making the public aware of the risk of infection that s/he could pose to society.

Constitutional lawyer Bhimarjun Acharya said he would support the government if it acted in public interest at this time. “If the government decides to limit the right to privacy in the face of the pandemic, it should justify its action by giving convincing reasons that its actions are in public interest,” he said.

Executive Director of Freedom Forum Taranath Dahal said people that test positive should themselves declare their status.

“The government won’t err if it reveals the localities of COVID-19 patients. The only thing that the government needs to ensure is that patients should enjoy all their rights without being victims of stigma, hate or violence,” he said.