The Kerala High Court on Tuesday opined that "it is for the Central Government to consider the request made by the State Government for departure from the Standard Operating protocol set in place with regard to the period of institutional quarantine" for persons travelling to Kerala from overseas and from other States.
Orders of the Union Government provided for compulsory 14 days quarantine period but the period has been diluted by 7 days, by the Kerala Government.
It was stated before the Court that 14 days compulsory quarantine period has been done away with, in the case of pregnant women, senior citizen and small children and those having health conditions. The petitioner submitted that incidents of symptoms of Covid-19 being exhibited even after 28 days after travel are rampant and that steps taken by the State Government to provide only 7 days institutional quarantine and permitting pregnant women, senior citizens and persons with health conditions to undergo the quarantine completely at their residences is likely to cause serious situations again in the State. It was contended that the decision of the State Government to reduce the mandatory 14 days institutional quarantine is incompetent and illegal apart from being against public interest.
The Division Bench Of Justices Anu Sivaraman and MR Anita noted the submissions of the Central Government Counsel that the Standard Operating Protocol has been prepared taking note of the factual situation and on expert advise and that as such, departure from the same is not normally warranted. "Such departure by the State Governments will lead to a serious situation...The request for departure from the Standard Operating Protocol will have to be considered by the Ministry after getting expert medical advise and taking note of various aspects involved. This may take some time and the SOP must be complied with till then", it was urged.
Having considered the contentions advanced by all sides, the bench was of the opinion that it is for the Central Government to consider the request made by the State Government for departure from the Standard Operating protocol set in place with regard to the period of institutional quarantine. "The special circumstances prevalent in the State and the matters highlighted by the State Government shall also be taken into account by Central Government and a decision on the request shall be taken without delay", observed the Court.
The bench further made it clear that those persons who have already been permitted to leave for their residences, in terms of the norms in place by the State, need not be recalled to undergo institutional quarantine, unless the situation so warrants.
"The issue shall be considered appropriately by the Central Government without delay taking note of the urgency of the situation. In case more time is required to consider the issue, directions regarding steps to be taken in the meanwhile shall be specifically intimated by the Central Government without delay", required the High Court.
On behalf of the state of Kerala, the Court was informed that the issue of reduction of quarantine has been considered by the State Government in consultation with medical experts and a decision has been taken to request the Central Government to provide exemption from the Standard Operating Protocol for the State taking note of the available data and the special circumstances prevailing in the State. It was advanced that since all efforts have been taken to see that the home quarantine is properly carried on at the residences including, by personal verification by local authorities, health staff and Asha Workers, the 7 days institutional quarantine and the continuance of the quarantine at residences is completely justifiable in the special circumstances prevailing in the State. It was further submitted that after the 7 days institutional quarantine, RT-PCR test is conducted on all asymptotic persons and it is only on verification that the persons are Covid negative in the said test, they are permitted to go home and continue the quarantine in their residences
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