The Gujarat High Court directed the state government “to work towards building the medical infrastructure stronger” as it reiterated that the foremost duty of the state was to ensure well-being of its people.
The court said that providing safe and effective Personal Pro-tective Equipment (PPE), will “encourage the recruitment of new doctors and nurses…” as it lauded the 50 MBBS students who have volunteered for Covid-19 duty.
The Indian Express had earlier reported of several districts which face lack of specialised doctors to treat critical Covid-19 patients.
The state government was also directed “to identify, appreciate and reward the work of police officers, healthcare workers, volunteers and various other non-profit organizations that are doing their part in fighting the pandemic.”
The observations and directions came while hearing of Covid-19 related issues in the state on July 24 by a division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice JB Pardiwala. The order was made public on Tuesday.
Reiterating its observations when hearing a litigation seeking ban on the Jagannath Rath Yatra, last month, the HC observed, “The government may have to take certain harsh steps and measures such as banning public and religious gatherings, hiking up the fines for disobeying masks laws, punishing those severely who try to profit off people’s illnesses. These harsh decisions will call for criticisms but they will at the end of the day be saving lives”.
Vigil in Ahmedabad
The court directed the government to keep a close watch at the airport and check the passengers before permitting them to leave.
Lauding the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation for its initiatives and noting that the city has seen a significant improvement in managing its cases, the court directed that if people coming to Ahmedabad show symptoms, they should not be permitted to enter without further tests.
“Giving into the sentiments of people and allowing religious and social gatherings to take place will without doubt cause a surge in community transmission… Where will these people go for treatment? Will we have enough medicines, beds and doctors to treat them? Our medical infrastructure will collapse, leading to a situation of complete turmoil,” it said.
The court directed that norms for social gathering must be strictly adhered to. The bench directed that responsibility must be fixed on the host of the social gathering. A register must be maintained of all who attend the gathering along with their contact details and if the norms are flouted, stringent action must be taken against the host. The court directed the government to “create awareness committees,” and work alongside different communities’ leaders across the state to raise awareness about Covid-19.
‘Conduct random tests within a week’: Gujarat HC
Noting that Gujarat ranks “at the bottom of the list when it comes to testing per million,” the Gujarat High Court (HC) has asked the state government to divide each taluka or city into zones depending on their population and conduct “specific number of random tests over a week” in all the zones over a week.
The court, hearing a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) pertaining to Covid-19 on July 24, also observed that “there appears to be no reasonable justification for such restricted testing, more particularly when the WHO, the ICMR, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, countries across the world and the states across India are seeking to achieve more and more ‘tests per million’”.
While ICMR considers RTPCR tests to be the gold-standard, the Gujarat health department’s daily testing data includes RTPCR samples and antigen tests. The state bulletin has been putting out tests per million figures since July 24. The state on July 31 was testing 410 per million while on Tuesday the bulletin reflected that it had tested 319 per million.
To the state’s earlier submission before the HC where it had opposed a ramp-up in testing on the grounds that RTPCR tests have only 70 per cent accuracy, the court observed, “Instead of increasing the conduct of number of tests, it is argued on behalf of the state… that tests only have 70% accuracy and therefore, the same are restricted. The experts… continue to lay emphasis on increasing the number of tests per million to control the spread of the virus. We humbly urge the State Government to look into this issue with the aid of experts in the field.”
The division bench also asked the government to explain why the court should not direct that testing laboratories in 11 districts of Bharuch, Surendranagar, Dahod, Panchmahals, Mahisagar, Botad, Kheda, Morbi, Chhota Udepur, Anand and Aravalli, be set up at the earliest. These districts neither have RTPCR nor TrueNAT testing facilities.
The court also directed that all Covid-related information “must be published in all newspapers so as to make people aware of the spread of the virus and ensure that there is no complacency”.
With the Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA) busting several rackets of black-marketing and the spurious sale of off-label use drugs such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab in July, the Gujarat HC said that the government “must ensure that no black market profiting occurs at any time much less during a health crisis”, and that the persons found involved in such “heinous crimes” should be dealt with strictly in accordance with the law.
The court suggested that all procurement and distribution of the lifesaving drugs must be done through the government with no private middle men involved.
Ensuring that these drugs are “freely available, in sufficient quantity and at a controlled price” will counter black-marketing, the court said. ENS
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