The Telangana High Court on Monday directed the State to, not only publish vital statistics on COVID on the Internet, but most importantly to have it published on the front pages of all the Newspapers in the Print Media.
The Chief Justice-led bench observed, "For, it is imperative that people should be made aware of the fact that the pandemic is only increasing day in and day out. It is essential that people should be made aware that they are required to take all the precautions necessary for controlling the pandemic".
Accordingly, the division bench required the following data to be published on the front pages of all newspapers-
(i) Total number of samples tested, reports awaited, number of positive cases, number of active cases, number of cured, number of deaths.
(ii) Number of individuals in Home and Institutional Quarantine.
(iii) Number of symptomatic persons and asymptomatic persons.
(iv) Chronology of Positive cases along with district and present status.
(v) District wise distribution of cases.
(vi) Details of passengers (including migrants, persons travelling through railways and airways)
(vii) Number and areas where Hotspots are situated,
(viii) Age and Gender distribution to date.
(ix) Co-Morbidity status among deaths.
(x) Containment zones in each locaIity/ district/ city/area/ mandal.
(xi) List of centers/hospitals (government & private) accessible to the public at large to avail voluntary testing.
The bench recorded the submission on behalf of the Department of Public Health, Medical and Family Welfare, Government of Telangana, that all these vital statistics are not only collected, but also analysed on a weekly basis. Therefore, this data is readily available with the State Government and it should not be difficult for the State to publish the said data on a daily basis.
The Court took note of the argument of the petitioner that that in the middle of March, 2020, when the COVID-19 was beginning to spread across the State, the State Government was issuing a Media Bulletin on a daily basis, which contained a detailed information with regard to the Persons in Home Quarantine, Total Samples Tested, Total Samples Positive for COVID-19, Total Contacts of the Positive cases, Total contacts traced and contacted, the Number of Persons Quarantined in State Quarantine Centres, and with regard to admissions, and discharges, in different hospitals of the State.
However/ after the COVID-19 cases started rising steadily, vital information is no longer being published. "According to him, the State of Kerala gives out information with regard to the Number of Persons Tested, the Number of Persons in Home Quarantine, the Number of Samples sent for Testing, the Number of Testing of Priority Groups, i.e., from the groups like healthcare workers,persons with high social exposure, workers, the age and gender of the patients. The said vital information is not being revealed by our State. Instead, the recent most Media Bulletin, such as one dated 26,05.2020 merely indicates the increase of total positive cases of COVID-19 as on that date, the number of confirmed positive cases, and the number of persons cured, or discharged, as on that date", observed the bench.
It was advanced on behalf of the petitioner that until and unless the relevant data is collected, and publicized, the extent of the disease spreading through the population would continue to be unknown. Moreover, since therelevant data is not being publicized, people at large will be of the opinion that the pandemic is no longer a serious illness, and that they are safe to venture out, and they can afford to ignore the safety measures being prescribed by different guidelines issued by the Government. "According to the learned counsel, this would only aggravate the situation as surreptitiously, the disease would only spread its wings unknown to the innocent people, This may lead to a medical disaster", said the bench.
It was further submitted that within the last two weeks, the number of persons infected with COVID-19, has been increasing phenomenally, But, since the Government is neither testing the people at large extent, nor revealing the relevant data, the phenomenal number of persons being detected may just be the tip of the iceberg.
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