The Allahabad High Court on Friday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to explain how it was dealing with the surge in Covid-19 cases in rural and sub-urban areas, and smaller cities of the state. A two-judge bench, comprising justices Siddharth Verma and Ajit Kumar, issued the direction while hearing a petition that claimed the state government’s focus in the recent past has been only on dealing with the Covid-19 situation in major cities.
The smaller districts and cities got unfortunately ignored and also did not get the attention of the media, the petition claimed. “Surge in cases is now being seen in rural areas also and the situation has alarmingly worsened for want of proper medical care,” it said. In the case of deaths at the Meerut Medical College’s Trauma Centre allegedly due to lack of oxygen, the district magistrate submitted that the deaths were not caused due to shortage of oxygen but for “some other reasons”.
In stern remarks, the high court on Tuesday observed that the death of Covid-19 patients just for non-supply of oxygen to hospitals is a criminal act, “not less than a genocide” by authorities entrusted the task to ensure the oxygen supply chain is maintained. The remarks were made on some news items doing the rounds on social media regarding the death of Covid-19 patients due to lack of oxygen in Lucknow and Meerut districts. The court also ordered a probe into the incidents.
On a court query as to what was the exact oxygen stock in the Meerut hospital, the district magistrate, could not give any satisfactory reply. He also could not reply as to what was the cause of the deaths.
The court directed that the Meerut district magistrate will hold a comprehensive investigation into the matter and submit a report to the court again by personally appearing online on the next date fixed. The court directed all the magistrates in Uttar Pradesh to immediately dispose of cases related to seizure life-saving drugs namely Remdesivir, oxygen cylinders and oximeters and other items needed for Covid-19 management. The cases must be disposed of within a week of them being instituted before them, it said.
The court also directed the director-general of police to issue an advisory to all the senior superintendents and superintendents of police to direct police officers who seize items related to Covid-19 management to approach magistrates within 24 hours for disposal of such property. On the availability of Covid-19 vaccine, the court observed, “We are of the opinion that tender is a long drawn process and if we run late in vaccinating a large number of people in the state, we may lose the real desired result of vaccination as the virus may achieve such mutations which may neutralize the vaccine also”. “It is necessary that the government enter into direct dialogue with vaccine producers with the help of Indian diplomats in those countries,” it said.
The court directed the state government to find ways and means to ensure immediate procurement of vaccines so everybody is vaccinated completely within 3-4 months time. “Tell us on the next date fixed how it (government) proposes to expedite purchase of vaccines from the global market. Although all efforts taken till now are quite appreciable but we hasten to add that this is no time to relax as a lot of action is still needed to be taken more especially in the field of public health care, facility and overall public health infrastructure in view of the impending threat of a third waive of Covid-19 pandemic,” the court observed. The court fixed May 11 as the next date of hearing in the matter.