New Delhi, Aug 31 (IANS) Taking note of the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in the national capital, the Delhi High Court on Monday directed the Delhi government to establish COVID-19 testing centres at all the Inter-State Bus Terminals (ISBTs) and also asked it to revamp its strategy for testing patients following the new guidelines of the Centre with regard to ‘Unlock 4.0’.
A division bench of the high court presided by Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad asked the Delhi government to re-strategise its policy regarding COVID-19 testing in the capital especially for those who are asymptomatic and further directed it to inform the court regarding the same by the next date of hearing.
“Looking at aforesaid rising figures, by no stretch of imagination can it be stated that the COVID-19 dragon has been tamed much less slain. It is looming large in the city and needs to be tackled on priority. This court is therefore not satisfied with the number of tests actually being conducted on ground by the Delhi government,” the court said.
While expressing concerns over the rise in the numbers, the bench told the Delhi government, “You thought that you had slayed the dragon. However, this dragon (coronavirus) has several heads which is making life miserable for people.”
The observations came while the bench was hearing a petition filed by advocate Rakesh Malhotra which had raised a grievance that the Delhi government is not taking expeditious steps to furnish reports after conducting tests for COVID-19 on suspected people, within a reasonable time of 48 hours or even earlier and as a result of the said delay, the contact tracing is also getting delayed and the infection is multiplying rapidly in Delhi.
During the course of hearing, advocate Satyakam appearing for the Delhi government expressed concerns over the exponential rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and said, “We too are concerned and are fully concentrating and there is no dearth of resources. This dragon, we don’t know how it behaves.”
“We were at one point on a rise of 600 cases and we thought it would go further down but the scene has changed as there was a steep rise,” he said while adding the Delhi government is watching the situation very closely.
He added that the Delhi government is finding ways to expand its testing facilities while adding that the dispensaries too have been asked to extend their timings so that more tests can be carried out.
Satyakam also told the court that that one of the factors for increasing number of cases was the festive season as people have started coming out and intermingling with each other. However, the bench rejected the argument saying that the court had restricted gatherings to 20 people or a maximum of 50.
While hearing the matter through video conferencing, the bench questioned the Delhi government and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) over the under usage of the sanctioned strength of conducting RT-PCR tests.
“Why is there a restriction on the people who willingly want to get tested and are ready to pay for it?” the bench questioned.
Responding to the queries of the court, senior scientist at ICMR, Dr Nivedita Gupta said that ICMR is merely an advisory board and a research centre and the states have the freedom to tailor the advisories as per the situation. “If the states want to increase the number of tests, we do not have any problem,” she said.
After hearing the matter at length, the two judges directed that “The Delhi government shall make sure that they re-strategise the testing in Delhi so that maximum number of cases which are turning out to be asymptomatic can actually undergo a test to prevent spread of COVID-19.”
It further perused the report of the sero surveillance and noted that a major segment of the national capital’s population remains asymptomatic and this silent population is in turn becoming the cause of the rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Posting the matter for further hearing on September 8, the bench said, “While drawing up a fresh guideline, Delhi government shall examine as to whether the necessity of obtaining a prescription from a private doctor for undergoing the RT-PCR test should be made mandatory/optional or done away with.”