Reviewing the COVID situation in the State, the Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday observed that it was concerned with the possibility of the opening of the Char Dham, as is being contemplated by the State Government.
The Bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma also issued a slew of directions for the State Government keeping in view the fact that the Scientist community has cautioned of a third COVID wave in the near future and looking at the rising cases of Black Fungus.
Importantly, the Court also observed:
"The State will have to be well prepared to tackle the menace of both the third wave of COVID-19 and the continuation of Mucormycosis."
Some of the suggestions given by the Court are as follows:
- The State Government must plan and strategize as to how to tackle the emergence of the third wave.
- In order to deal with the menace of Black Fungus, the Government must come up with concrete plans. Since the Government claims that it has ample infrastructure both in terms of medical infrastructure and in human resources, since it claims that Black Fungus can be treated in different hospitals throughout the State, the necessary information with regard to the existence of such facilities should be disseminated to the public at large through electronic and print media.
- The State Government, in collaboration with the Central Government, must ensure that lifesaving drugs such as "Liposomal Amphotericin B" are steadily and continuously supplied to the State in order to ensure its free availability.
- The infrastructure required for treating Black Fungus should be strengthened by the State Government in the different hospitals, which are functioning throughout the State.
- Explain the discrepancy in the data with regard to the number of samples tested in the month of May, 2021. For, prima facie, there is, indeed, a discrepancy in the data furnished by the learned Secretary, Medical Health and Family Welfare.
- The Department of Medical Health and Family Welfare is also directed to issue a circular, both for the benefit of the public at large and for the private hospitals, clearly prescribing the upper cap applicable to the fees being charged by the private hospitals.
- The said circular should make it amply clear that the fee structure being prescribed is the maximum that a private hospital can charge from a patient.
- In case the private hospitals are found to be charging more than the prescribed fees, the State should take strict action against the erring hospitals in accordance with the law.
- The State Government is directed to implement the SOP with regard to vaccination of persons who do not possess the prescribed identity cards. The State Government should specifically endeavor to inoculate the Tribal population, the elderly population, the physically challenged persons, and the eligible homeless people.
- The State Government should also consider the feasibility of roping in celebrities, who are the role models for the people of the State for educating the people about the COVID-19 pandemic and with regard to adhering to the SOP issued by the Central Government and State Governments. For, many a time, it is the celebrities, who act as a catalyst, and as motivators for the public at large.
- The State Government should consider the possibility of creating a system which would permit the nurses, accompanied with an Asha Worker and a Home Guard, who can go door to door and inoculate the eligible persons in each village. For, until and unless inoculation is carried out on war footing, it will be extremely difficult to prevent the onslaught of the third wave.
Submissions made by the State Government
At the outset, the Government submitted that due to the steps taken by it, the number of COVID-19 cases has drastically decreased in the State in the last one month and that it was constantly in touch with the Central Government to provide better infrastructure for the people of the State.
It was further apprised to the Court that the Central Government has permitted the Uttarakhand State to collect its oxygen quota from its own oxygen production units, which are being operated and functioning within the State of Uttarakhand.
Importantly, the Court was informed that a Second Committee under the Director, Medical, Health, and Family Welfare, had also been constituted for examining the possibility of the emergence of the third wave.
As soon as the recommendations are submitted before the State Government, the Government will take necessary steps in accordance with the said recommendations, it was submitted.
Further, the Government also submitted that considering the possible threat of the third wave of COVID-19, the Government is planning to strengthen the health care system, especially, keeping in mind that the possible victims of the third wave may be the children.
In order to ward off the third wave, inoculation in the State was being done at a rapid pace, it was submitted.
It was also informed to the court that the State Government had already sought instructions from the Central Government with regard to the inoculating the Nepalese population within the State.
Submissions made by intervenors
- The private hospitals have reserved a large number of beds for the upper echelon or the elite of the society
- The correct data is not being published by the State Government regarding the availability of ICU beds.
- The people, including the nomads, persons in the old age homes, roadside beggars, people residing in Rehabilitation Centres or camps and other identifiable eligible persons have not been identified in the State. Thus, a large segment of the population continues to be deprived of vaccination.
- Direction should be issued to the State Government to constitute the District Task Force, and to ensure that these vulnerable sections of society are duly inoculated by the State.
- Despite the repeated requests of the Asha Workers and the Aaganbadi Workers, the Government has not even provided PPE kits to these workers, who are actively engaged in the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The matter will now be heard next on June 16, 2021.