The Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday issues a slew of directions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the state and to strengthen the existing medical infrastructure to battle the impending cases.
The directions passed by a Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma include a direction to the State to regulate the forthcoming Char Dham Yatra in the pilgrim cities.
"The opening of the Char Dhams cannot be permitted to become another hot bed for the spread of COVID-19 pandemic," the Bench remarked while directing the State Government to immediately issue a SoP with regard to the opening of Char Dhams in the third week of May, 2021.
The order stated,
"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."
The Bench was hearing a batch of PILs concerning Covid management in the state, especially in light of the ongoing Kumbh Mela.
The Bench has also issued the following directions:
The State needs to be over vigilant and ever ready to increase the number of testing throughout the State, in general, and in bigger cities of the State, such as Dehradun, Haridwar and Haldwani, in particular, in order to gauge the extent of positivity in the State, the Court said.
Considering the fact that a large extent of the State is covered by mountains, and the fact that the villages and hamlets are spread at mountain tops, the State Government is directed to seriously consider the use of "mobile vans" which can penetrate into the heartland and into the interior parts of the State for carrying out the test.
Increase the number of authorized laboratories/clinics/hospitals which can carry on the testing for a larger percentage of population.
The State Government should consider the use of other kits, besides the Rapid Antigen Kit, or the RT PCR tests, for increasing the tests being carried out on daily basis
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.
The State Government is directed to procure and to distribute sufficient number of anti-viral injection, namely 'Remdesivir', on war footing throughout the State.
The State should increase the number of Dedicated COVID-19 Hospitals.
Merely having 5 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.
The State is also directed to consider the feasibility of establishing temporary hospitals with the help of the Defence Research and Development Organization ('DRDO' for short), or with the help of any other Central agency.
Since a few temporary hospitals have already been constructed for the benefit of Kumbh Mela, the said hospitals should not be dismantled till the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
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.
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. If necessary, the number of ICUs in the hospitals should be increased.
Hospitals for underpriviliged
Considering the fact that the private hospitals were granted land at a concessional rate under the condition that 25% of the beds available in the hospitals would be reserved for people belonging to the category of the Below Poverty Line, State is directed to inquire whether the said condition is being following or not by the private hospitals?
In case, it is discovered that the private hospitals are flouting the said condition, then strict action should be taken against the erring hospitals in accordance with law.
Availability of data in Public Domain
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.
The media bulletin should clearly indicate the total number of beds available in each hospital/ Dedicated COVID-19 Health Care Centres, and the number of vacant beds available in each hospital.
It should also indicate the class of the beds, i.e. the number of beds attached with ventilators, number of beds attached with Oxygen tanks, and the number of beds without any Oxygen tank.
Cabinet to take Policy Decision
During the hearing, the bench was incomed that the Government has scheduled a Cabinet meeting today, where not only serious discussions, but also important decisions would be taken with regard to tackling of COVID-19 pandemic in the State.
It was told that the State Government has already imposed a lockdown on the weekend; it has imposed night curfew throughout the State; it has deferred examinations. However it is for the Cabinet to decide whether the school and colleges throughout the State should be closed; the period for which the educational institutions should be closed; whether a lockdown, and the duration of lockdown, should be imposed upon the State or not?
Accordingly, the Bench ordered,
"Mr. Om Prakash, the learned Chief Secretary, is directed to submit a report with regard to the Cabinet decision which may be taken on 22.04.2021. He shall also inform this Court about any policy decision taken by the State Government for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic."
The matter is now fixed for May 10.