In a significant order, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to ensure the availability of appropriate Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) to health workers treating COVID-19 patients in India.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat ordered :
"The respondents as per guidelines dated 24.03.2020 of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are directed to ensure availability of appropriate Personal Protective Equipments, including sterile medical/Nitrile gloves, starch apparels, medical masks, goggles, face shield, respirators (i.e. N-95 Respirator Mask or Triple Layer Medical Mask or equivalent), shoe covers, head covers and coveralls/gowns to all Health Workers including Doctors, Nurses, Ward Boys, other medical and paramedical professionals actively attending to, and treating patients suffering from COVID-19 in India, in Metro cities, Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities".
The Court also ordered necessary police protection to medical professionals.
"The Government of India, respective States/Union Territories and respective Police authorities are directed to provide the necessary Police security to the Doctors and medical staff in Hospitals and places where patients who have been diagnosed COVID-19 or patients suspected of COVID-19 or those quarantined are housed. Necessary Police security be also extended to Doctors and other medical staff who visit places to conduct screening of people to find out symptoms of disease".
There was also a direction to the State Governments to take necessary action against persons obstructing performance of duties by medical professionals.
"The State shall also take necessary action against those persons who obstruct and commit any offence in respect to performance of duties by Doctors, medical staff and other Government Officials deputed to contain COVID-19"
Further, the Court directed the government to explore alternative possibilities for domestic production of protective clothing and gear to medical professionals.
"The Government shall explore all alternatives including enabling and augmenting domestic production of protective clothing and gear to medical professional. This includes the exploring of alternative modes of production of such clothing (masks, suits, caps, gloves etc.) and permitting movement of raw materials. Further, the Government may also restrict export of such materials to augment inventory and domestic stock."
IMPORTANT UPDATE :SC Directs Centre @MoHFW_INDIA to ensure availability of #PPEs, Gloves, Masks, Respirators, and other necessary protective apparels and shields to health workers treating COVID-19 patients in India.SC also orders necessary police protection to health workers pic.twitter.com/vyMVyguIt6— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) April 8, 2020
IMPORTANT UPDATE :SC Directs Centre @MoHFW_INDIA to ensure availability of #PPEs, Gloves, Masks, Respirators, and other necessary protective apparels and shields to health workers treating COVID-19 patients in India.SC also orders necessary police protection to health workers pic.twitter.com/vyMVyguIt6
These directions were passed in petitions filed by Dr Jerryl Banait and other doctors seeking measures for ensuring safety of medical professionals combating COVID-19 from the frontline.
The Court also took notice of the incidents of attack against health workers, such as those happened in Indore and Ghaziabad last week. Such incidents will "instill a sense of insecurity" in the minds of doctors and medical staff, said the Court.
"It is the duty of the State and the Police Administration to provide necessary security at all places where patients who have been diagnosed coronavirus positive or who have been quarantined are housed. The Police security be also provided to Doctors and medical staff when they visit places for screening the people to find out the symptoms of disease", the Court said.
During the hearing of the case Wedesday forenoon, the bench had called health workers "warriors".
Click here to download order