SC says COVID-19 situation a 'national crisis' as India adds 3.2 lakh cases, 2,771 deaths; high courts hammer states

Meanwhile, Australia became the latest country to impose restrictions on travel from India. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the suspension of all direct passenger flights till 15 May due to the 'very significant' spike in COVID-19

FP Staff April 28, 2021 00:07:20 IST
SC says COVID-19 situation a 'national crisis' as India adds 3.2 lakh cases, 2,771 deaths; high courts hammer states

Representational image. PTI

On a day when India's daily COVID-19 tally remained above 3 lakh and deaths from the virus remained over 2,000 for the eighth consecutive day, the Supreme Court called the situation in India a 'national crisis' and said that it cannot remain a mute spectator.

The apex court bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud further stated that its suo motu proceedings on devising national policy for COVID-19 management is not meant to supplant the high courts across the country and that these courts are in a better position to monitor the situation within their boundaries.

The court said there is a need for its intervention on certain national issues as there might be matters related to coordination between states.

This, on the same day, that the EC banned all victory processions on 2 May both during and after the counting of votes in order to check the spread of the novel coronavirus . The Election Commission also directed that only two persons can accompany winning candidates to receive certificates of election from Returning Officers.

Meanwhile, Australia became the latest country to impose restrictions on travel from India. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the suspension of all direct passenger flights till 15 May due to the "very significant" spike in COVID-19 cases.

Also on Tuesday, Western Australia premiere Mark McGowan questioned the reliability of COVID-19 tests conducted in India, saying the tests were impinging on the integrity of the system and causing some issues in Melbourne.

SC asks Centre rationale behind vaccine pricing

The Supreme Court took note of different prices of COVID-19 vaccines for Centre, states and the private hospitals and asked the Central Government to explain to it the “rationale and basis” behind such a pricing policy. The top court, hearing a suo motu case related to "distribution of essential supplies and services during pandemic", also asked the Centre as to how it was going to meet the sudden surge in demand of vaccines from 1 May when vaccination for all above 18 years of age would begin.

“The Union of India shall clarify in its affidavit the basis and rationale adopted in regard to the pricing of vaccines,” said the bench while fixing the suo motu case for hearing on Friday.

“Different manufacturers are coming out with different prices. What is Centre doing about it?” asked the bench, which also comprised Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat. The bench also asked the Centre to apprise the top court of the modalities on the distribution of oxygen as well as the vaccines to states and the monitoring mechanism.

High Court slams Delhi govt

The Delhi High Court came down heavily on the state government in a hearing, saying its confidence in the government is shaken and telling authorities to put their house in order.

“Set your house in order. Enough is enough. If you cannot manage it, tell us then we will ask the Central government to send their officers. We will ask them to take over. We cannot let people die like this,” the division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said while hearing a case on shortage of oxygen supply and COVID-19 essentials.

The court, slamming the government for rampant black marketing of oxygen cylinders and essential drugs in the National Capital, asked it to submit a report about the deaths which have taken place in Delhi on account of a shortage of oxygen.

The court further said it has not made any request for creating COVID-19 facilities for its judges, staff and their families in a five-star hotel and an SDM's order saying so was "very misleading".

Taking suo motu cognisance of the news reports which said that 100 rooms of Ashoka Hotel in National Capital have been converted into a COVID health facility for judges of Delhi High Court on its request, a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said, "No communication has been made to anyone in this regard".

"This is very very misleading. The high court has not made any such request for setting up beds in any such five-star hotel," the bench said and added that the order passed by the sub-divisional magistrate was wrong as the state cannot create a facility exclusively for a class.

'Affadivit doesn't represent ground reality'

During a hearing on the suo moto proceedings on the surge in COVID-19 cases in Gujarat, the Gujarat High Ccourt said the affidavit submitted by the state paints a rosy picture and is not in touch with the ground reality.

"We can't sit in the ivory towers. The state has to take steps to break the chain,"Live Law quoted Justice BD Karia as saying.

Chief Justice Vikram Nath of the Gujarat High Court said that there should be an assurance from the state government that no patient is unattended.

Justice Karia added that it is alright even if patients are treated outside the hospitals.

"With the limited resources we have, the problem is going to rise. We cant be mute spectators to the problem," Chief Justice Nath said.

Justice Karia pulled up the state government, asking "What will happen on 1 May when the number of COVID positive would be double? What steps are you going to take? This is the way the system is working? What is your preparation for the future? Nothing," reported Live Law.

"You are talking only about Ahmedabad, what about Gujarat?" he asked.

The court also advised against imposing a lockdown and said it is not a solution to fight the pandemic.

Calcutta HC directs strict enforcement of a ban on rallies and gatherings on 2 May

The Calcutta High Court directed all authorities to strictly enforce the ban imposed by the Election Commission on rallies and gatherings on 2 May, the day of the counting of votes and declaration of results of the Assembly elections in West Bengal, three other states Kerala, Assam and Tamil Nadu and the UT of Puducherry.

The EC counsel apprised the court that it has banned all public meetings and victory processions throughout India on the said date in the wake of soaring COVID-19 cases.

A restriction of a maximum of two persons has been placed on the winning party for collecting the certificate, the commission told a division bench comprising Chief Justice TBN Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee, which is hearing a set of PILs on the observance of coronavirus guidelines during the election process.

"The restriction imposed by the Election Commission of India as indicated above, shall be strictly enforced by all authorities concerned and it is so directed by this court," the bench ordered.

Bombay HC seeks info on condition of crematoriums

The Bombay High Court, noting that the bodies of COVID-19 patients cannot be kept lying for hours waiting to be cremated, directed the Maharashtra government and the BMC to inform it about the condition of crematoriums across the state and in Mumbai.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni said in several crematoriums there is awaiting period before bodies are cremated and relatives of the victims are forced to queue outside the crematoriums.

"The Maharashtra government and all other civic authorities will have to come up with some mechanism to address this issue. Bodies cannot be left lying like that for hours together. They are corpses," the high court said while hearing a clutch of public interest litigations seeking directions pertaining to shortage of Remdesivir injections, oxygen supply, availability of beds and other issues.

Justice Kulkarni cited an incident in Maharashtra's Beed district, where 22 bodies of COVID-19 victims were stuffed in an ambulance while being transported to the crematorium.

"If there is a waiting period at a crematorium, the body should not be released from the hospital," the high court said.

Kerala HC seeks Centre's response on vaccine pricing policy

The Kerala High Court issued a notice to the Central Government on two pleas challenging its "discriminatory COVID-19 vaccination policy".

MK Muneer, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala assembly, in his plea, alleged that Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy issued by the Centre was violative of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. It was also contrary to the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and consequent National Disaster Management Plan, 2019 (NDMP), he alleged.

The petitioner said that by virtue of the new policy, dual pricing of vaccines has been allowed and states are forced to contend with private players to purchase the vaccines in the open market, whilst the Central Government procures them at a discounted/ subsidised rate. He alleged that the present policy for people in the 18-45 age group is discriminatory, especially when compared to the vaccination by the Centre for those above 45 years of age.

According to the petitioner, numerous states, including Kerala, are up in arms objecting to the mechanism. He sought a direction to the Central Government to take over the vaccination programme in accordance with the National Disaster Management Plan and vaccinate all citizens free of cost.

Another plea filed by a lawyer contended that the Centre should adhere to the National Vaccination Policy when it comes to procurement of vaccines. The court, after hearing both petitions, clarified that since the matter is under the consideration of the Supreme Court, no orders will be passed by it for the time being. It then posted the pleas to 4 May for further hearing.

'Over 1-cr vaccine doses still available with states and UTs'

More than 1 crore vaccine doses are still available with states and Union Territories, and another 80 lakh doses will reach them in the next three days, the Union health ministry said late Tuesday. The government of India has so far provided 15,65,26,140 vaccine doses to the states and UTs free of cost.

"The total consumption, including wastage, is 14,64,78,983 doses. More than 1 crore doses (1,00,47,157) are still available with the states and UTs to be administered. More than 80 lakh (86,40,000) doses will be received in addition by the states and UTs in the next three days," the ministry stated.

The ministry said that recently some media reports quoting some government officials from Maharashtra have pointed out that the state has exhausted vaccine doses, thereby adversely impacting the vaccination drive.

"It is clarified that the total COVID vaccine doses received by Maharashtra as of 27 April (at 8 am) are 1,58,62,470. Of this, the total consumption, including wastage (0.22 percent), was 1,49,39,410. A balance of 9,23,060 doses is still available with the state for the administration of vaccine doses to the eligible population groups.

Furthermore, 3,00,000 doses of COVID vaccines are in the pipeline for delivery in the next three days," the ministry stated.

Earlier in the day, state health minister Rajesh Tope said the availability of anti- COVID-19 vaccines is still a challenge and the state needs a week's quota delivered at one time in order to vaccinate a maximum number of people. "The Serum Institute of India (SII) has informed the state government that it can supply the 'Covishield' vaccine only after 20 May," he said.

COVID patient fails to get bed, dies; family attacks hospital staff

Family members of a woman, who allegedly died due to COVID-19 waiting for a bed at South Delhi's Indraprastha Apollo Hospital on Tuesday, attacked its staff, resulting in minor injuries to four employees, officials said. This is the first such incident of a COVID patient's family attacking the staff of a healthcare facility in Delhi this year, according to police. However, they said, no complaint has been filed in this regard so far.

Pictures circulating on social media showed blood on the floor, broken partitions and furniture strewn around inside the hospital. A purported video clip of the incident showed the hospital security staff and some people engaged in a pitched battle, hitting each other with sticks, near the hospital's entry gate. Dr Karan Thakur, vice president (Operations), said the incident led to the shutting down of the hospital's emergency department and COVID triage area for two hours.

"The hospital received a woman in a critical condition at the emergency in the early hours of Tuesday. Immediate medical attention appropriate to her condition was given by a team," the hospital's spokesperson said in a statement.

"Given the paucity of beds, the family was advised to shift the patient to another facility. Unfortunately, the patient died around 8 am, following which her family members resorted to vandalism, destruction of hospital property and assault on our doctors and staff," it said.

While the hospital deeply condoles the death of the patient, it is deeply shocked at the behaviour of the patient's family against doctors and healthcare workers who are providing untiring services amidst the pandemic, the spokesperson said in the statement.

A doctor and three security personnel have received minor injuries. Some equipment and a partition in the area has been damaged. The hospital has not filed any complaint, Dr Thakur said.

"We understand the family is going through a lot. They have lost someone. We understand how they are feeling. We didn't want to file a complaint... Our only appeal is that please appreciate we are doing the best. We need everyone's support," he said.

He said some family members broke the glass at the main entrance. "They had cuts on their hand."

'India's COVID-19 tests inaccurate, says Western Australia premier

Premier of the Western Australia state Mark McGowan on Tuesday alleged that COVID-19 tests conducted in India for returning passengers were either "inaccurate" or "unreliable" which are impinging on the integrity of the system and causing some issues in Melbourne.

McGowan's remarks came after authorities in Western Australia said that four people in hotel quarantine in Perth tested positive for coronavirus following their return from India.

Western Australia health authorities are concerned that the majority of returning travellers were from India where the infection has been rising alarmingly. McGowan told a local TV channel: "I have just been advised at this morning's emergency management team meeting that 78 of the 79 passengers on this flight had been in India recently”.

Our expectation is the number of positive cases from this group of people will grow and potentially grow significantly, he said.

"We obviously have a problem with India. Some of the tests conducted in India either aren't accurate or aren't believable and clearly that's causing some issues here," McGowan said.

He pointed that the large number of people arriving in Australia with the virus showed the "Indian system was failing", and he questioned the accuracy of the tests conducted before boarding.

"If there are tests that are inaccurate or a bit dodgy being produced so that people get on flights, that is impinging the integrity of the system and that is why we are suffering these problems," he said.

India adds 3.23 lakh cases, toll nears 2 lakh

With 3,23,144 people testing positive for the coronavirus in a day, India''s infection tally has climbed to 1,76,36,307, while the national recovery rate further dropped to 82.54 percent, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday. The toll mounted to 1,97,894 with 2,771 new fatalities. There has been a slight dip in the daily cases as compared to the number of new infections reported in the past few days.

The active case count has increased to 28,82,204 comprising 16.34 percent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has further dropped to 82.54 percent, from 82.62 percent reported on Monday. The national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 97.33 percent on 17 February.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,45,56,209 while the case fatality rate has further dropped to 1.12 percent, the data stated.

India's COVID-19 tally had crossed 20 lakh on 7 August; 30 lakh on August 23; 40 lakh on 5 September and 50 lakh on 16 September. It went past 60 lakh on 28 September; 70 lakh on 11 October, crossed 80 lakh on 29 October; 90 lakh on 20 November and surpassed one crore on 19 December. India crossed 1.50 crore cases on 19 April.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 28,09,79,877 samples have been tested up to 26 April with 16,58,700 samples being tested on Monday. The 2,771 new fatalities include 524 from Maharashtra, 380 from Delhi, 249 from Uttar Pradesh, 226 from Chhattisgarh, 201 from Karnataka, 158 from Gujarat and 124 from Jharkhand.

A total of 1,97,894 deaths linked to the virus have been reported so far in the country including 65,284 from Maharashtra, 14,628 from Delhi, 14,627 from Karnataka, 13,651 from Tamil Nadu, 11,414 from Uttar Pradesh, 11,009 from West Bengal, 8,530 from Punjab, 7,736 from Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh 7,536.

The health ministry stressed that more than 70 percent of the deaths occurred due to comorbidities. "Our figures are being reconciled with the ICMR," the ministry said on its website, adding that state-wise distribution of figures is subject to further verification and reconciliation.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date:

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