High Court concerned over Gujarat government’s COVID-19 management

‘Figures given by State are not matching with the actual number of positive cases’

Published - April 16, 2021 12:49 am IST - AHMEDABAD:

Healthcare workers at Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad on Thursday April 15, 2021.

Healthcare workers at Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad on Thursday April 15, 2021.

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday, during the suo motu hearing of a public interest litigation on the COVID-19 situation in the State, observed that had the Gujarat government taken pre-emptive steps earlier, the present grim situation with the pandemic could have been avoided.

“If the State had taken steps, not that the State was sleeping, but if there was a push, if all of this had been done earlier, before the PIL was registered, situation would have been better,” Chief Justice Vikram Nath told Advocate General Kamal Trivedi.

The Chief Justice, who initiated the suo motu petition after newspaper reports about the worsening COVID-19 situation, said that in 2020 the Court had passed a slew of directions in a suo moto PIL giving suggestions for increased testing, arranging more hospital beds, maintaining social distancing and wearing of masks, but they were not implemented seriously.

At the hearing on Thursday, the Chief Justice also told the Advocate General that there seemed to be a mismatch between the numbers. “Figures given by State are not matching with the actual number of positive cases,” the CJI noted during the hearing held online, which is streamed live on the High Court’s YouTube channel.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav Karia also raised doubts over the State government’s claims on the availability of beds, testing facilities, medical oxygen, Remdesivir injections, and other issues pertaining to the pandemic.

“In anticipation that the situation may get worse in the future, this court had in February made some suggestions. We told you to get ready with more COVID-designated hospitals, sufficient beds should be available, testing should be increased, make sure people wear masks and strict vigilance at public places,” the Bench said.

“But, it seems that the State government did not give due consideration to our suggestions. That is why we are seeing a tsunami of corona at present. Though the Centre was also continuously reminding the State about it, the government was not as cautious as it should have been,” the court observed during a hearing that lasted more than two hours.

The court told the Advocate General that Remdesivir injections were being sold in the black market due to a shortage in supply. It directed the Advocate General to ask the State government to issue detailed guidelines on the usage of the injection.

“Hospitals are not admitting patients who require oxygen. We have learned that oxygen is being black-marketed. Hospitals are misusing their quota. Oxygen is being siphoned off after getting approval for beds while patients are turned away claiming that it is not available,” the Bench observed.

The Bench directed the State government to make data on hospital beds available in the public domain.

The court also asked the Advocate General to ensure that CT-scan infrastructure was available at district levels so that it could be used for detecting COVID-19 cases as the RT-PCR test sometimes failed to detect new strains of the virus.

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