COVID-19: HC asks Centre to examine oxygen availability in other states

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New Delhi, Apr 19 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Monday expressed concern over the rise in COVID-19 cases and asked the Centre to examine the availability of oxygen in different states for diverting it to areas of surge and said 'it is evident that the healthcare infrastructure is at the stage of imminent collapse'.

Taking stock of the current pandemic situation, the high court asked the Central government to look into the aspect of shortage of oxygen supply in Delhi hospitals on an urgent basis.

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli directed the Centre and Delhi government to file affidavits by Tuesday disclosing hospital-wise availability of beds for COVID-19 patients here.

It said both the governments in their affidavits shall also give details as to how many hospital beds are with or without ventilators and oxygen support.

“Central government shall examine the availability of oxygen in different states and its need for treatment of COVID-19 patients so that oxygen can be diverted to areas where there is a surge in cases and where it is most required,” the bench said.

It also directed the firm Inox, which used to supply oxygen to Delhi hospitals and has suddenly stopped, to restore the oxygen supply immediately. The high court was told that the firm was supplying oxygen to other states.

“We direct Inox to honour its contract and supply oxygen to Delhi government and hospitals here and restore 140 metric ton oxygen supply to Delhi immediately which shall inturn be distributed to needy hospitals here,” the bench said.

The high court, on its own, revived a disposed of petition related to COVID-19 testings and infrastructure, noting that the virus has raised its “ugly head” once again and the pandemic is raging with much greater intensity and 'it is evident that the healthcare infrastructure is at the stage of imminent collapse'.

Central government standing counsel Monika Arora submitted that certain steps have been taken by the Centre on oxygen supply and availability of beds in hospitals and she will place the details on an affidavit.

The high court was informed by petitioner advocate Rakesh Malhotra that a large number of laboratories have stopped home collection of samples and are also not taking fresh samples in view of the AAP government’s direction to the labs to generate the reports in 24 hours or face action.

The bench said it cannot appreciate this stand of the government.

'We, therefore direct that if such a direction is issued, it shall not be implemented,' it added.

“Because of this direction (of the government), labs are not willing to collect samples if they are unable to deliver reports in 24 hours. If any such action is taken by the government, it would only be counter productive. We have to be clear that labs are also hard pressed because of the large numbers they are having today. It would not serve the interest of any laboratory to negligently or deliberately delay the test result,” the bench said.

It, however, asked the labs to work efficiently and diligently and generate reports as soon as possible.

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said nothing has been placed on record with regard to the Delhi Chief Minister’s press conference where such direction was purportedly issued.

He said in the current situation the government cannot afford to ban any laboratory and it will not do anything which will create obstacles in the work.

On the migrant workers crisis, it observed that both the Central and Delhi governments have failed in the last year's lockdown and lessons are required to be learnt from it and directed the state government to provide food to daily wagers at their work sites and to utilize the service of contractors who used to prepare mid-day meals in schools.

Delhi Chief Secretary was directed by the court to ensure implementation of this direction without any delay and the Delhi government has to mention in its affidavit as to how it proposed to implement it.

The high court, which noted that earlier in the day the Delhi government has issued an order imposing curfew for six days starting from 10 PM tonight till April 26 till 5 AM, will take up the matter again on Tuesday.

Mehra also urged the court to ask the Centre to file an affidavit on augmenting supply of medicines Remdesivir and Fabiflu, used in COVID-19 treatment.

On the Delhi government’s submission, the court also asked the Centre to mention in its affidavit about the status and capacity of beds and also consider the aspect of increasing beds in Centre government run hospitals in the national capital.

“Centre shall inform how many COVID-19 beds are allocated by it to the Delhi government— with or without ICU and with or without oxygen support,” it said. PTI SKV SKV RKS RKS