Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal on Monday issued two orders that struck down key announcements made by the Delhi government in the past week — to reserve beds in private and Delhi government hospitals for residents of Delhi, and to limit the scope of Covid-19 testing.
While the first order directed local departments and agencies to “not deny” treatment to non-residents of the city, in his second order, the L-G directed the Delhi government to test asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of confirmed cases as well, saying not doing so could hamper contact tracing and result in further spread of Covid-19 in the national capital.
The L-G’s order against reserving beds for residents of Delhi drew a sharp reaction from the AAP government. Alleging that the BJP had forced the L-G’s hand, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the party would now have to take responsibility if there were deaths on account of coronavirus in Delhi.
Taking to Twitter, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Baijal’s move would throw up challenges, but his government would strive to meet them.
“LG’s order has created a big problem and challenge for the people of Delhi. Making arrangements for treatment for people from across the country during the Covid-19 pandemic is a major challenge. But maybe it’s God’s will that we have to serve everyone in the country, so we will try to do so,” Kejriwal tweeted.
On Sunday, Kejriwal had announced that beds in Delhi’s private hospitals and in hospitals run by the state government would be reserved for residents of Delhi until the Covid-19 pandemic subsides.
Hospitals run by the Central government, such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, and Safdarjung Hospital, and private hospitals that undertake specialised surgeries were kept out of the ambit of the policy.
In the order issued in his capacity as chairperson of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), Baijal pointed out that the Supreme Court had time and again upheld the right to health as an integral part of “Right to Life” under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
“And whereas, all Government and private hospitals and nursing homes situated in the NCT Of Delhi have to extend medical facilities to all Covid-19 coming for monitoring/ treatment without any discrimination of being resident resident of NCT of Delhi…
“Now, therefore, in exercise of powers conferred under Section 18(3) of the Act the undersigned in his capacity as the Chairperson of the DDMA hereby directs all departments and authorities concerned of NCT of Delhi, to ensure that treatment is not denied to any patient on the ground of not being a resident of Delhi,” Baijal said in his order.
A copy of the order has been shared with Kejriwal, Revenue Minister Kailash Gahlot and Delhi Police Commissioner, among others.
Soon after the order was issued, Sisodia said that instead of working in coordination with the states, the BJP was indulging in politics and spreading “disaster in the name of disaster management”.
He said the decision on reserving beds was a well-thought-out one, which would have been useful in tackling the pandemic better and in ensuring that Delhi residents got hospital beds if cases kept rising. The head of the Delhi government’s Covid panel, Dr Mahesh Verma, had Sunday told The Indian Express that the city may see 1 lakh cases by the month-end, for which 15,000 beds would be needed.
“The CM had made a full plan on the requirement of beds and ensuring their availability. But the BJP, by pressuring the L-G, has got the decision overturned. If tomorrow all beds are taken in three days by people coming from across the country, and a Delhi resident falls ill, where will that person go? You (BJP) are not capable of treating and your governments are indulging in PPE and ventilator scams in Gujarat. People are dying in Ghaziabad in ambulances. The BJP should be ashamed of itself for using the L-G.
“I want to ask again, if all the beds are filled up tomorrow due to this decision of yours, who will be responsible if there is a death? All the beds will be taken in four days. Will you take responsibility after that? Will the BJP take responsibility if someone dies in Delhi? The BJP has done very wrong. I want them to take this back,” Sisodia said.
In his second order, the L-G, pointing out “deviation” from guidelines of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), directed the Delhi government to test asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of confirmed cases as well.
On June 2, the Director General of Health Services Delhi (DGHS), had ruled out testing of asymptomatic contacts of confirmed patients.
“This deviation in the ICMR guidelines can result in inadequate contact tracing of affected individuals and can result in further spread of COVID-19 in NCT of Delhi. Now, therefore, in exercise of powers conferred under Section 18(3) read with Section 18(2)(d) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the undersigned hereby directs all departments and authorities concerned of NCT of Delhi to ensure that ICMR strategy for COVID-19 testing in India issued on 18.05.2020 is strictly observed in NCT of Delhi without any deviation,” the order states.
Clause 5 of the ICMR’s May 18 testing strategy says “asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case to be tested once between day 5 and day 10 of coming into contact”. It spelt out eight other categories, which had found a mention in the DGHS order.
However, the DGHS order removed the term “asymptomatic” from clause 5. It specified that direct and high-risk contacts who will be eligible for testing will include diabetics, patients of hypertension, cancer or senior citizens.
Subsequently, the Delhi government had barred six private labs from collecting samples for testing, saying they were not following testing norms and testing asymptomatic patients.
Baijal’s orders come a day before a key meeting of the DDMA, where top officials of the administration are supposed to assess whether the national capital has entered the community transmission stage. Sisodia will represent the Delhi government in the meeting, which is to be chaired by the L-G.
“The DDMA will assess if Delhi has entered the community transmission stage. In case it concludes that community transmission has started, the strategy to fight corona in the city will change,” Sisodia said.
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