The Uttarakhand High Court has sought a detailed report from the state government on its preparedness for the rising cases of Covid-19 in the state. The bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma is taking stock of the situation in the state to ensure that if the cases start increasing uncontrollably, the state is ready to deal with it. However, now that the Supreme Court has taken suo moto cognisance and seeks to take over cases filed before high courts related to Covid, it remains to be seen how these matters will be dealt with.
The Chief Secretary, Om Prakash informed the court of the steps being taken to curb the spread of Covid-19 that the state had already imposed a lockdown on the weekend; it has imposed night curfew throughout the State; it has deferred examinations.
Amit Negi, the learned Secretary, Medical Health and Family Welfare, informed the Court that on a daily basis, the Government is issuing media bulletins with regard to the number of samples tested, the number of positive cases discovered, the number of recoveries recorded in the State, the number of samples which have yet to be tested, and the reports have yet to be released. He stated that cases increased by 6.4% in the past week.
The counsel for the petitioner submitted that news reports suggested that cases have jumped from 3.05% to 13.54% within a period of twelve days and that all beds in hospitals in Dehradun are full and that Remdesivir drug is also not available in the state. The court was also informed that there is a shortage of ICU beds and that private hospitals are charging exorbitant amounts for covid treatment. Another petitioner brought to the court’s attention the Kumbh mela of Haridwar which is scheduled to go on until April 30 and the state has not taken any action. Further, in May, the Char Dham yatra season would begin. He stated that once the doors of these holy temples are open, a large number of pilgrims will wind their way to these temples. The petitioner pointed out the lack of preparedness of the state government in not making any concrete plans for regulating, or controlling the number of pilgrims who would be allowed at these temples and they will eventually become hot beds of Covid, just like the Kumbh mela.
The court took notice of the increasing number of cases in the country and said even if the state government may be justified in claiming that the track record of Uttarakhand is far better than the other States, but it is “no reason to rest on our oars”.
“Considering the fact that there is rapid increase in positivity, considering the fact that it has already doubled in one month, the State needs to be over vigilant, and ever ready to increase the number of testing throughout the State,” the court said. The court observed that there are only 132 authorized clinics/hospitals for carrying out the Covid-19 test hence the state should consider use of mobile vans for testing, as there are many villages and hamlets in the state and a mountainous terrain.
The court issued the following directions:
(i) To increase the number of authorised laboratories/clinics/hospitals which can carry on the testing for a larger percentage of population.
(ii) To increase the number of testing being done in the big cities of the State. In the big cities, like Dehradun, Haridwar and Haldwani testing should be increased to at least 30,000 per day.
(iii) In order to increase the testing facilities in the hill districts of the State, the State Government should consider sending of ‘mobile vans’ which are fully equipped for carrying out the testing of COVID-19 virus.
(iv) The State should increase the number of Dedicated COVID-19 Hospitals. For, merely having five Dedicated COVID-19 Hospitals is too little to tackle the menace, especially when the pandemic is likely to spread and increase throughout the State in the coming months.
(v) The State is also directed to consider the feasibility of establishing temporary hospitals with the help of the Defence Research and Development Organization
(vi) The State should also increase the number of COVID-19 Health Care Centres. Since, presently, the Health Care Centres are established only in twelve districts, the Health Care Centres also need to be established in the thirteenth district of the State.
(vii) The State is further directed to increase the number of beds available in the hospitals. It shall ensure that the majority of the beds are equipped with Oxygen tank and sufficient numbers of bed are equipped with ventilators
(viii) As aforementioned, CT scan machines are essential in detecting the presence of the second strain of COVID-19 virus. Therefore, the State Government should endeavor to increase the CT scan machines available in the State.
(ix) the State Government is directed to ensure that the PPE kits and other protective gears, such as gloves, masks, and sanitizer are provided to all the medical staff,
(x) take strict action against private hospitals overcharging patients in violation of the September 2020 order of the government
(xi) The State Government is directed to publish the names and locations of the testing centres, and the names and locations of Hospitals/ Dedicated COVID-19 Health Care Centres in the media bulletin on a daily basis.
(xii) The State Government is directed to procure and to distribute sufficient number of anti-viral injection, namely ‘Remdesivir’, on war footing throughout the State
(xiii) The State Government is further directed to immediately issue a SoP with regard to the opening of Char Dhams. The SoP must indicate the procedure for registration of the pilgrims, the number of pilgrims allowed to travel to the respective Dham, the accommodation which would be available for the pilgrims, the number of pilgrims allowed to enter each temple at the Dham. Moreover, the State Government shall ensure that the SoP issued by the Central Government and the SoP issued by the State Government are strictly complied with by the pilgrims. For, the opening of the Char Dhams cannot be permitted to become another hot bed for the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
The court directed the Health Secretary to submit a detailed report on the implementation of these directions on or before May 7 and scheduled the next hearing for May 10.
The complete order may be read here: