April 3, 2020 Reading Time: 3 minutes

How long until we’re willing to shoot quarantine violators?

This may seem an outrageous question to ask, and you may say, this obviously is not something the US would consider… would it?

The Philippines is home to over 100 million people – equivalent to about one-third of the US population. The Philippines isn’t exactly well-regarded for its approach to human rights, and its leader, President Duterte, is now threatening to “shoot dead” quarantine violators

Our society is getting very good at ratting people out. Are you just going out for a drive or to the grocery store to buy a bar of (unessential) chocolate? Coronajustice warriors unite! You will quickly be reprimanded as selfish, irresponsible, and a danger to society.

A colleague recently recounted a story concerning a professor friend. The professor, having travelled to conferences a fair bit in the lead-up to global lockdown, decided to self-isolate for 14 days on his return home to his houseboat. After two weeks this gentleman went to the supermarket. As he was unloading his groceries to take inside he was accosted and heavily berated by a passer-by for being extremely irresponsible. How could he enjoy himself by going out on a boat – during this time of crisis?!

Any decision you make regarding your quarantine situation is entirely dependent on you, your individual circumstances, and your household.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with self-quarantining. No one else can truly know your circumstances: you yourself may have (or suspect you have) underlying health conditions. You may not have any health concerns and are simply risk averse. Or you may have vulnerable members in your household such as elderly parents, children who are unwell, or housemates whose immune systems aren’t strong. All of those reasons – and more – are perfectly acceptable reasons to self-isolate. 

Maybe you’re young (or believe that you’re only as old as you feel) and are feeling invincible. Maybe you’re not risk-averse, or are adventurous, thrill-seeking or ready to bounce off the walls being inside all the time. Then again, maybe you already had COVID-19, recovered, and are now eager to get back to work, go on that Easter holiday you had planned, or simply want to eat at a nice restaurant.

We don’t know how much aid unemployed Americans will need – or receive. Efforts to “flatten the curve” could cause shutdowns to go on for months, but business bailouts and individual handouts only offer a temporary solution. As unemployment claims rise to Great Depression-era levels handouts will only burden current and future generations further. 

Even if we “allow” people out to get exercise suicide rates will undoubtedly spike. Spurred on by stresses of recession and unemployment there were an additional 5,000 suicides in the US following the global financial crisis in 2008 (an increase of 10%, this figure approached 15% in some parts of Europe). Japan, Hong Kong and Korea also experienced significant increases in suicides following the 1998 Asian financial crisis. This, of course, doesn’t even take into account all the “involuntary” deaths that occurred from the lost incomes for third-world individuals living hand-to-mouth.

But – whether you decide to stay home or not – such a decision should be your choice. 

Moving towards a culture of voluntarism, charity, and support – and away from layers and layers of restrictions, is becoming more vital than ever before.

You may claim that drastic measures such as those threatened in the Philippines won’t happen here. You may comfortably think: that won’t happen to me; that won’t happen in my country. 

But, amidst the confusion caused by emergency powers and mayoral proclamations, we are already seeing signs of this in the West. I’m sure the French didn’t think that, in 2020, they would risk fines, even imprisonment, for failing to carry war-era slips of paper stating their purpose for being out. In the UK, police are moving beyond their mandate to interpret and enforce government guidelines, instead of upholding the written rule of law.

Six months ago, would you have said that government would forcibly be shutting down businesses? Probably not. So how do you know that, if restrictions keep building and building, six months from now there won’t be a green light to “shoot dead” quarantine violators?

Now is the time to act – with kindness, but without fear. We need to make accommodations for those that choose to self-isolate, but we also need to let the rest of society return to their lives. Most importantly, we should not jump to conclusions about the person taking food onto their boat, about your neighbors who go for a walk in the park every day, or the student who wants to watch a movie with their roommate.

Micha Sparks

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Micha is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in International Relations and National Security through Curtin University, where she gained a double degree in International Relations and Economics. During her studies she participated in numerous extra-curriculars as Secretary of the Curtin Wall Street Club, participant in Curtin Business School’s Wesfarmer’s High Achievers Program and an intern at the West Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She has received full scholarships for Mannkal’s Leadership Development Program, an advanced industry placement at the American Institute for Economic Research, and the 2018 Asia Institute for Political Economy summer school, organised by the Fund for American Studies.

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