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Use RT-PCR method to test frontline staff in Vidarbha: HC

The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court on Monday said all frontline workers, including those who are asymptomatic, in hospitals and containment zones in Vidarbha shall be entitled to be tested for COVID-19 using RT-PCR (Rapid Antibody and Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) method.

A Division Bench of Justices Ravi Deshpande and Amit Borkar was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Citizens Forum for Equality seeking these tests on medical staff, police personnel and others working with COVID-19 patients.

In a 37-page judgement, the court directed District Collectors or Commissioners, municipal corporations or Chief Executive Officers, municipal councils or competent authorities in the Vidarbha region to immediately use the RT-PCR tests.

The NGO also sought directions for the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to frame appropriate guidelines for conducting these tests to safeguard their lives, as guaranteed under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution.

The Bench directed ICMR to frame appropriate policy on this and prescribe the protocol for periodical testing of frontline workers in Vidarbha region with the RT-PCR method, within a week.

The court said frontline workers, including doctors, nurses, police personnel, and sanitation workers are performing a “herculean” task by putting their lives at risk to protect the lives of others. “They are the warriors and soldiers in this process,” the court said, and added it was of the view that frontline workers are covered under the definition of suspected cases and hence, should be tested.

“There is no guarantee that frontline workers using PPE kits and other protective gear like hand gloves, masks and coats have no chance of getting infected,” the court said.

The court further said by invoking the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Disaster Management Act, the Central and State governments have taken upon themselves an obligation and responsibility to save and protect the lives of the people of this nation, more particularly the frontline workers from COVID-19.

It added that the government cannot keep the fate of the frontline workers hanging and compel them to do their jobs and discharge their duties without fear or assurance of safety and protection of their own life and the lives of their family members.

“Their life is more precious because they are warriors and saviours compromising or putting their own life at stake to save the lives of others. We cannot afford to lose them. There cannot be any compromise in this respect,” the court said.

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Printable version | May 24, 2022 3:14:32 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/use-rt-pcr-method-to-test-frontline-staff-in-vidarbha-hc/article31727054.ece