Allahabad: The Allahabad high court Tuesday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to look into the viability of complete lockdown in those districts where COVID-19 has spread at an alarming rate in the last two or three weeks saying if the situation is not handled carefully and cautiously it may lead to the complete collapse of the public health system.
The high court, which favoured restrictions on public gatherings to 50 persons, also asked authorities to give priority to public health over elections (panchayat).
“We understand that complete lockdown for weeks together may not be feasible but looking to the current surge of the pandemic, we direct the government to look into the viability of complete lockdown in those districts where spread has increased alarmingly, for at least two weeks or three weeks and at least immediately all public gatherings must be restricted to 50 persons,” a bench comprising Justices Siddhartha Varma and Ajit Kumar said.
Districts like Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur, Gorakhpur have been badly hit by COVID-19.
The High Court directed the Centre and the State Government to ensure sufficient production of Remdesivir drug by making its raw materials available to pharma companies and ensuring its supply in the open market and to take stern action against those who are hoarding it and are involved in its black marketing.
“The surge has absolutely paralysed public life and all the medical aid systems have reached a stage of complete saturation. We have been informed that Covid Hospitals are over-flooded with Covid patients and there is both manpower shortage and available facilities in hospitals,” the bench observed.
“The situation is so alarming that if it is not handled carefully and cautiously we may lead to the stage of a complete collapse of the public health system,” observed the bench which was dealing with a PIL on the condition of quarantine centres and treatment of coronavirus infected patients in Uttar Pradesh.
The bench, which passed a slew of directions, said “While we insist for emergency purchases of BiPAP machines and high flow cannula masks to meet the demand of patients who may even be lying in the corridors of Covid hospitals/ centres, we direct the Government to acquire open places in the city areas of districts that are worst hit in the state to set up temporary level 1 hospital in a makeshift structure.”
The bench asked the state government to “arrange manpower on contract basis immediately to serve all those who are admitted to temporary level 1 Covid hospitals/centres.”
“We also direct for immediate purchase and supply of BiPAP machine and high flow cannula mask in ambulances to all the district hospitals and level 2 and level hospitals of the districts like Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur, Gorakhpur where COVID-19 infection has widely spread,” the bench said.
“We have been informed that a new Covid testing machine(COVAS) is not functioning for want of testing kit. We direct the state government to provide/arrange testing kits available for COBAS machine at Moti Lal Nehru Medical College, Prayagraj within twenty-four hours,” the bench said.
The High Court asked the state government to vigorously carry out the immunization programme in the state.
On the medical needs of non-COVID-19 patients, the bench said, “We must not forget that people suffer from various other diseases and so they may need not only urgent medical help but intensive care admission as well.”
The bench directed the state government to buy more ICU beds for hospitals.
“We must give priority to public health over elections and the Government is expected to streamline every department of public health and public care in the light of the observations made herein above”, said the bench while fixing April 19 as the next date of hearing in the case.
During the course of the hearing, some lawyers complained that health officials are not conducting COVID-19 tests properly to show fewer COVID-19 patients and that testing samples are kept waiting for more than twelve hours. The court directed the District Magistrate as well as the CMO of Prayagraj to be present on video conferencing during the course of the hearing.