Epidemic Diseases Act

Corona-virus pandemic is continuously rising. The whole globe is in a battle mode to control the spread of the virus. There has been a lockdown across the country and all the events postponed.

  • All states and Union Territories have been directed to invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, so that Health Ministry advisories are enforceable.
  • The Epidemic Diseases Act consists of four sections and aims to provide for better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases.
  • It is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with the outbreak of diseases such as swine flu, dengue, and cholera.
  • The colonial-era Act empowers the state governments to take special measures and prescribe regulations in an epidemic.
  • It is a state act and not a central act.

Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

  • The Epidemic Diseases Act aims to provide for the better prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.
  • The Act contains four sections.
    • Part 1: Describes the title and extent of the Act
      • It extends to the whole of India.
    • Part 2: Powers to take special measures
      • It empowers the state governments to tackle special measures and formulate regulations to contain the outbreak.
      • the State may prescribe regulations for the inspection of persons traveling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital etc.
      • Section 2A of the Act empowers the central government to take steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic.
      • Health is a State subject, but by invoking Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, advisories and directions of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare will be enforceable.
    • Part 3: Penalty for Disobedience
      • The penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act are according to section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant).
    • Part 4: Legal Protection to Implementing Officers:
      • It gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.


  • The Epidemic Diseases Bill was tabled on January 28, 1897, during an outbreak of bubonic plague in Mumbai (then Bombay).
  • The existing laws were deemed insufficient to deal with various matters such as “overcrowded houses, neglected latrines and huts, accumulations of filth, insanitary cowsheds and stables, and the disposal of house refuse.
  • The Bill called for special powers for governments of Indian provinces and local bodies, including to check passengers off trains and sea routes.
  • In 2018, The D.C of Gujarat issued a notification in vadodara declaring Khedkarmsiya village as Cholera affected.
  • In 2015, Chandigarh implemented this act to deal with Malaria and Dengue.
  • In 2009, the Section 2A was implemented to tackle SWINE FLU.

Epidemics Worldwide

  • An epidemic is the rapid spread of disease to a large number of people in a given population within a short period of time. Throughout history, there have been a number of epidemics having a lasting impact on societies.
  • These are highly communicable diseases that spread through the population in a very short time.
  • These diseases can be viral, bacterial or other health events like obesity.

Plague of Justinian

  • It afflicted the Byzantine Empire, and especially its capital, Constantinople, between 541-542 A.D.
  • It recorded the highest number of lives lost in an epidemic in human history with over 100 million people dying, nearly half of the world’s population then.

Black Plague

  • It affected Europe in 1346-1350 A.D.
  • Up to 50 million people died in Eurasia and North Africa from the plague that began in Asia and was carried across the world by rats covered with infected fleas.
  • It killed 60% of Europe’s population


  • The world became aware of this epidemic only in the 1980s.
  • Medicine for the treatment of HIV AIDS was not available until 1987.
  • The Virus is particularly aggressive in Sub-Saharan Africa with 69% of the global infections.
  • Today there are about 37 Million people living with this disease.
  • Individuals with access to anti-retroviral medicines, life expectancy has increased.

Other Major Epidemics

  • Spanish Flu of 1918 claimed 20 million lives.
  • Modern Plague (1894-1903) claimed 10 million lives.
  • Asian Flu (1957-1958) resulted in the death of 2 million people.
  • The 6th Cholera pandemic (1899-1923) resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million people.
  • The Russian flu (1889-1890) killed 1 million people.
  • The Hong Kong Flu (1968-1969) killed 1 million people.

Steps Taken

India’s actions

  • The ease of globalisation and mobility has lead to rapid spread of this disease.
  • Video Conference of SAARC Leaders: Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called for a virtual leadership summit through the video meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
    • The video conference led to the creation of the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund based on a voluntary contribution from all SAARC members.
    • Further, $10 million has been extended by India as a contribution to the fund. This is to set a example that India is also striving towards a cleaner and healthier planet.

Global Response

  • The COVID-19 outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO on 30th January 2020.
  • According to recommendations by the World Health Organization, the diagnosis of COVID-19 must be confirmed by the Real Time- Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCRT-PCR) for respiratory or blood specimens, as the key indicator for hospitalisation.
  • $15 million dollars has been released from the UN’s Central Emergency Fund to help fund global efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19
  • Russia is said to be coming up with a vaccine.

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