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State Did Not Pay Heed To Expert Warning About COVID Second Wave : Uttarakhand High Court Pulls Up State Government

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
10 May 2021 1:58 PM GMT
State Did Not Pay Heed To Expert Warning About COVID Second Wave : Uttarakhand High Court Pulls Up State Government
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The Utttarakhand High Court on Monday pulled up the state government over its lack of preparedness to deal with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic."Despite the fact that in January 2021 the scientific community kept on warning about the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State did not pay any heed", a division bench comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice...

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The Utttarakhand High Court on Monday pulled up the state government over its lack of preparedness to deal with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Despite the fact that in January 2021 the scientific community kept on warning about the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State did not pay any heed", a division bench comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma observed.

"Even though the State has been reeling under the pandemic for the last one and a half years, there seems to be lack of planning by the State to deal with the pandemic", the bench added.

"Unfortunately, for certain mistakes committed, for certain negligence shown, COVID-19 pandemic has taken gargantuan proportions, both in the State and the Nation", the bench noted.

The bench warned that as per the experts, the second wave is yet to peak and a third wave of the pandemic is also impending, which has the potential to affect children the most.

The bench stressed that the State government is required to anticipate future dangers and address the difficulties faced by people at present.

The Court recorded dissatisfaction at the affidavit filed by the State Health Secretary Amit Negi as it did not sufficiently explain the measures taken in compliance of the earlier directions regarding testing labs, hospital beds, oxygen availability, distribution of essential drugs etc.

It observed hat the affidavit of the State Government has been drafted "very cleverly" in places so as to scuttle this Court's previous orders. The Court noted that despite Haridwar being the epicentre of COVID-19 pandemic in Uttarkahand, there is not a single government lab there. The Court said that there was no clarity in the government affidavit as to when the Government will set up accredited labs in major cities. It also noted that due to insufficient number of labs, over 4,000 samples in Dehradun and over 2,000 in Haridwar and Nainital are yet to be analysed.

The Court also noted the alarming situation that many major hospitals in the state do not have the availability of oxygen beds.


Financial limitations no excuse

The Court did not appreciate a submission made by the Advocate General SN Babulkar that the state's measures to protect right to health was subject to its financial limitations.

"In case of calamity and disaster, state cannot raise the defence of financial limitations. State cannot say that it does not have funds. The last penny in the exchequer must be devoted to protect the lives of people...Government being the father figure of all of us, must come forward and assure the citizens that they will be protected. That is the attitude government should have", the Chief Justice told the Advocate General.

"It is the foremost duty of the State to protect the lives of the people. Therefore it has to extricate every single drop of its strength and every single penny of its finances for protection of its people", the bench noted in the order.

The Court has issued the following directions :

  • Increase the number of testing labs, especially in Haridwar. In case the number of labs cannot be increased, the State should immediately take steps for dispersing mobile testing vans.
  • Press reports suggests that 27% cases are from hilly regions. Therefore,  people living in hilly regions of State must be tested as widely as possible.
  • Since cases are skyrocketing, state should also consider whether time has come to turn colleges/hotels into quarantine centres.
  • Number of hospitals needs to be increased. Though DRDO is dedicated to establishing two temporary hospitals, considering the possible third wave, State should consider more temporary hospitals, especially in big towns such as Haridwar, Haldwani, Dehradun.
  • State should correspond to Centre to seek permission to use the oxygen being produced within the state rather than being asked to transport oxygen tanks from Jharkhand or West Bengal.
  • State should also consider the possibility of importing oxygen concentrators with the cooperation of centre.
  • State should take steps to fill up vacancies in hospitals.
  • State should ensure that sufficient number of protective gears are available to doctors and nurses.
  • State should ensure that those manufacturing under spurious drugs are brought under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
  • Drug Controller is directed to ask drug inspectors to inspect drug stores to find out those hoarding vital drugs like Remdesivir. Action taken report in this regard must be submitted before the Court.
  • Government is directed to take strict action against erring hospitals which charge exorbitant fee violating govt orders. Steps taken against such hospitals must be informed to the court.

The Court has directed the State to file a fresh affidavit, rectifying the lacunae pointed out in the present affidavit, by May 18. The matter will be next considered on May 20.

Though the Advocate General sought for time till May 25, the bench declined.

"We don't want to give a long rope. Frankly speaking, we are not happy with the way the Govt is handling the issue", Chief Justice Chauhan orally told the Advocate General.

Acknowledges the efforts of medical fraternity

The Court, in its order, appreciated the efforts taken by the medical fraternity to control the pandemic.

"People are grateful for the bravery and dedication, hardwork and efficiency shown by the medical fraternity in trying to control the impact of COVID19", the Court said.






















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