Coronavirus | In Supreme Court, Centre blames Delhi government for surge in COVID-19 cases

A health worker collects swab sample of a passenger for COVID-19 test through RT-PCR kit at New Delhi railway station.   | Photo Credit: Shivkumar Pushpakar

The Union government squarely blamed the Arvind Kejriwal government of Delhi in the Supreme Court on Friday for the “massive increase” in COVID-19 infection and the escalating strain on medical infrastructure in hospitals.

The court agreed during the hearing that “States should rise above politics and rise to the occasion”.

A 170-page affidavit, filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), contained a scathing testimony against the AAP government for not taking “effective preventive steps to contain the infection”.

Coronavirus | MHA outlines steps to curb Delhi COVID-19 cases

“The Government of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) was aware that the confluence of winter, festival season and pollution were likely to witness a surge in cases. This foreknowledge ought to have led to strict enforcement and IEC measures being instituted well in time. However, this was not done,” the Centre informed a Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan.

Preventive measures

The virus blindsided the National Capital as people largely were unaware of the preventive measures to be taken. “While there were regular advertisements on achievements of Delhi Government, including on dengue prevention and control, no ads on COVID appropriate behaviour were to be seen,” the affidavit said.

The Centre named Delhi as one of the 10 States that contribute to almost 77% of the active caseload in the country. The affidavit said the glaring shortcomings in the Capital led Union Home Minister Amit Shah to call a review meeting on November 15.

The court said masks and social distancing were the only preventive measures in the absence of vaccines. Justice R. Subhash Reddy, on the Bench, remarked how majority do not wear masks while many leave it hanging on their chin. Besides, there is no dearth of processions or gathering in the States.

“Second wave of the crisis has already begun,” he said.

Justice M.R. Shah remarked, “There are protocols, there are guidelines but there is no will”.

The Centre said an MHA survey held in November of 114 private hospitals in Delhi found that the observance of discharge policy and prescribed Clinical Management Protocol was “very lax”, thus leading to a large number of patients not being given the proper treatment. Even patients who were under home isolation were not properly traced.

The Delhi government had now been asked to strictly comply with the prescribed protocols, the affidavit said.

“The report of a high-power committee headed by Dr V.K. Paul, Member, NITI Aayog, had recommended that Delhi should plan for a surge of around 15,000 cases per day and accordingly provide for about 6,500 ICU beds. Against this recommendation, GNCTD didnot take any timely measures to increase the ICU beds from the present level of around 3,500, thus causing a sudden pressure to come on the health and medical infrastructure in Delhi,” the affidavit said.

Kejriwal’s letter to Shah

Despite promising to increase the ICU (non-ventilator) beds by around 2,680, the Chief Minister, in a letter on November 19 to the Union Home Minister, had expressed his inability to enhance the beds by more than 912, it stated.

The letter, the affidavit said, wanted the Centre to create the additional 1,700 ICU beds.

One of the shortcomings listed by the Centre against the Delhi government was that despite repeated exhortations in the wake of rising cases, the latter did not take steps to enhance the testing capacity, particularly the RT-PCR, which remained static at 20,000 for a long time.

“It is only after the review meeting of Union Home Minister on November 15, that it was decided that RT-PCR tests would be enhanced to around 60,000 by the end of November, 2020, and that of RAT tests to around 60,000 also by the end of November, 2020, thus leading to a doubling of the total tests being conducted in Delhi,” the affidavit noted.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 1:24:31 PM |

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