COVID Situation Grave, Not A Rosy Picture: Gujarat HC to State Govt

Gujarat HC heard detailed arguments on a suo motu matter registered to tackle the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.

The Gujarat High Court lashed out at the state government on Monday saying it appeared that they had "given up on all hope," a day after it took suo motu cognizance of a surge of COVID-19 positive cases in the state.

"The myth that covid has gone has put us in difficulty," CJ Nath observed referring to the decline in the number of cases between December and March.

The high court on Sunday registered a suo motu case based on multiple news reports which highlighted the issues arising from the increase in the number of covid cases. It observed that a bare perusal of the same with "harrowing tales, unfortunate and unimaginable difficulties" indicate that "the State is heading towards a health emergency of sorts."

The high court directed the government to submit a detailed affidavit by the evening of April 14 based on the deliberations made in court today.

The high court and the state government, led by Advocate General Kamal Trivedi touched on key points like shortage of oxygen; availability of hospital beds; delay in testing at centres; and lack of availability of Remdesivir.

The proceedings from the hearing can be seen in the video below.

Tracking covid positive patients, ramped up testing facilities: Govt to HC

The government accepted that it was difficult to enforce masks in public and there was a demand to reduce the current fine of Rs. 1000. Trivedi, who was representing the state, said a lockdown was "not a solution", despite "demand" for the same.

While outlining the government policy pertaining to testing, tracing and treatment, Trivedi submitted that the state is using an IIT-developed artificial intelligence program called IT-enabled Integrated Hotspot Analysis System through which mobile records of a covid positive person is used to track movements their movements from the last week-10 days. Areas frequented by the patient are then identified using a geo-tracking system and people who interacted with the covid positive patient are isolated and treatment, if required, is started for them.

Testing can be done at 97 centres across the state of which 43 are government facilities. We will add 40 more centres soon, Trivedi said. Door to door surveys and more than 3000 mobile vans have also been pressed into service which conducts testing.

In Ahmedabad, there are 141 private covid hospitals in the state and 6283 beds. 900 beds will be added to this. A Hospital-wise break-up of the occupancy rate and the number of free beds is also available on a portal. In the rest of the state, 71,021 beds are available.

There is a "reasonably good supply of oxygen", though we are careful, Trivedi added. 70% of the supply has been reserved.

On the shortage of Remdesivir, Trivedi asserted that it was not a "drug of corona". It was simply described by doctors because it reduces the hospitalization period, he said. "It causes liver and kidney damage, so we do not recommend its use at home. Doctors are indiscriminately prescribing it," Trivedi said. "People are hoarding Remdesivir in the anxiety that they may need it. We request them not to do that," he added. "This drug is for emergency use only," he stressed.

He went on to submit that countrywide there were only seven manufacturers who cumulatively manufactured 1.75 lakh 100ml vials daily. Of this, Gujarat has been procuring the "lion's share" of 25,000-30,000 doses daily. Overall, the total production was "very low", and the Centre was making all efforts to ramp up production.

Situation grave, not a rosy picture: HC to Govt

"You have put things simply in a candid way, that it's rosy, but it is not," CJ Nath said in response to the Trivedi's submission that there was no shortage of beds, oxygen and the anti-viral drug Remdesivir which is being used to treat covid patients.

During arguments, the high court cautioned the public that if one looks at the history of pandemics, they usually lasted three years. The current wave of covid19 could be considered as the third wave, the chief justice added.

"The rising cases are so steep, it's galloping that government didn't think. We fail to understand why testing is taking so long. It takes a common man three days to get a test done, and results come five days later. For people like you and me, we can speed things up, but a common man cannot. In the meantime, the patient is in limbo. He doesn't know what to do. Start treatment or be optimistic that he is not covid positive. In the interim, he may go out, mingle and spread the infection among others," CJ Nath added imploring the state to ramp up testing.

Going by the government's submission, CJ Nath said that if Gujarat was procuring a "lion's share", then there should be enough stock available and the question of shortage thus did not arise. "Find out how many available and how many vials have been used," the high court told the state.

The high court further questioned the government's insistence to allow the prescription of Remdesivir in hospitals only. "A doctor will not simply prescribe Remdesivir…that's why controlling this is not in the public interest," CJ Nath said. One doesn't buy this medicine for fun, he added.

"I have personal information about people who were refused hospital beds, despite the availability of the same, CJ Nath said on the issue of shortage of hospital beds. To which, Trivedi said, this was "quite possible".

However, when Justice Karia asked why ambulances were queuing up outside hospitals, Trivedi said that difficulties rose when people from a certain income group insisted on treatment from particular hospitals only.

"I have heard from 20 people, that there's a 1.5-kilometre-long queue. The hospital says you go get it, so while the patient is in the hospital, his attendant is running around trying to get medicines. "When a patient comes to the hospital, he should be completely taken care of…Attendants can't run around" the high court added.

Replying to Advocate General Kamal Trivedi's opinion that the multiple news reports, the court relied on to register the suo motu case may be perception based or tinted, CJ Nath said the eight-ten reported in the news daily in the two English papers he read – The Times of India and The Indian Express – couldn't be wrong. "Journalists must be printing the news with a certain sense of responsibility," he said.

Updated On: 2021-04-12T18:11:06+05:30
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