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Delhi ramped up RT-PCR testing after prodding, many lives lost: HC

The capital Thursday reported 91 new deaths, taking the toll to 8,811, and 5,475 cases, taking the total case count to 5,51,262.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | November 27, 2020 2:25:16 am
Covid testing underway at New Delhi railway station, Thursday. Amit Mehra

THE DELHI High Court Thursday said it took pushing and prodding from the court to make the Delhi government ramp up RT-PCR Covid testing in the national capital, but it has come at the cost of people’s lives. The court said it was for the Delhi government to take a call whether night curfew is required to be imposed in Delhi or some parts, or if some other measures need to be adopted.

The capital Thursday reported 91 new deaths, taking the toll to 8,811, and 5,475 cases, taking the total case count to 5,51,262.

“At what cost? Take the number of deaths that have taken place this month and you will see the cost that people have paid for you to bring up your number of testing through RT-PCR,” observed the division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, in response to a government submission that more than 40,000 samples were taken on Wednesday for RT-PCR testing.

When the state attempted to compare figures of other cities, the court said, “What solace is it for those who have lost their family members and loved ones that the comparative rate of death is lower in Delhi as compared to other states.”

On whether Delhi was taking any cue from other states, which are imposing night curfew or weekend lockdown, senior advocate Sandeep Sethi submitted that the government was considering what kind of curfew could be imposed. “We are taking a holistic view,” submitted the government, adding it would come to a conclusion in the next couple of days.

However, when the court asked if the government was proposing to impose the curfew as recommended by the Centre, it submitted: “We are still actively considering it. There is no decision to impose or to implement it.”

The court asked, “as active as the Covid spread?”, to which the government counsel responded that there has been a substantial improvement and it is only a matter of taking up the challenge on a day-to-day basis and passing appropriate orders. The Centre submitted that it was for the Delhi government to take a call on imposing night curfew.

In the order, the court, with regard to night curfew or other measures required to be adopted to contain the virus, said, “Delhi government shall take a decision on this and implement the same without losing further time.”

The court also asked it to take concrete steps in each district to involve market associations and RWAs to spread the message about maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and taking other necessary measures to prevent Covid infection.

It also questioned the state on measures being taken for random checking of weddings to ensure there is no violation of the order limiting the number of guests to 50. “What is your protocol? This is the season where several marriages are being conducted and are in the pipeline. To make sure such marriage venues don’t become super spreaders, you have to have protocol in place,” said the court.

It asked the state to place on record data regarding complaints received and inspections carried out which revealed violations, after the government said a procedure has already been laid out for enforcement.

The court asked the state and Delhi Police to inform it about fines collected under different heads from violators of Covid norms, and steps taken to utilise them for Covid facilities and fighting the infection.

It also said that in today’s time, handing over of cash is to be avoided and suggested that there should be an online mode for collection of fines from violators. “If you don’t have a portal, you should create one,” said the court.

The bench further said it would be appropriate that names and numbers of Grade-I officers posted in the 33 major private hospitals, along with senior nursing officers, be made available at reception centres of hospitals for any person to approach them for assistance, besides help desks that hospitals have been directed to set up by the state.

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