New Delhi, Dec 18 (PTI) It is a “world war” against COVID-19 and the unprecedented pandemic has spread like a “wild fire” due to lack of implementation of guidelines and standard operating procedure (SoPs) issued by authorities to contain it, the Supreme Court said on Friday while expressing concern that the treatment for coronavirus was not affordable to the common people.
The apex court, which suggested either more and more provisions are to be made by the state governments and the local administrations or there shall be cap on the fees charged by the private hospitals, observed that states must act vigilantly and work harmoniously with the Centre as safety and health of citizens must be the first priority rather than any other considerations.
It said “strict and stern action” should be taken against those who are violating guidelines and SoPs as they cannot be permitted to play with the lives of others.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan while noting that right to health is a fundamental right and it includes affordable treatment, said treatment has become costlier and is not affordable to common people at all.
“Even if one survives from COVID-19, many times financially and economically he is finished. Therefore, either more and more provisions are to be made by the state government and the local administration or there shall be cap on the fees charged by the private hospitals, which can be in exercise of the powers under the Disaster Management Act,” said the bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah, which was dealing the matter suo motu.
“Due to unprecedented pandemic, everybody in the world is suffering, one way or the other. It is a world war against COVID-19. Therefore, there shall be government public partnership to avoid world war against COVID-19,” it said.
The bench said fatigue of frontline health care workers, including doctors and nurses, is also an issue as they are “already exhausted physically and mentally due to tireless work for eight months” and some mechanism may be required to give them intermittent rest.
Advocating that states must work harmoniously with the Centre, it said, “It is the time to rise to the occasion”.
It also said that any decision to impose curfew or lockdown must be announced long in advance so that people may know and make provisions for their livelihood.
Observing that people should understand their duty and follow rules, it said despite huge fine being recovered, Rs 80-90 crores in Gujarat alone, people are not following guidelines. Deliberating further, the bench said additional chief secretary(Home) or secretary(Home) of states shall ensure its strict implementation with the help of concerned superintendent of police or district superintendent of police and the police in-charge of concerned police station.
“We have already issued various directions with regard to measures to be taken to contain the COVID-19. We once again reiterate the state to issue necessary directions with regard to following measures so as to effectively monitor and supervise the implementation of various SOPs and guidelines.” “Despite the guidelines and SoPs issued, for lack of implementation the pandemic has spread like wild fire. A strict and stern action should be taken against those who are violating the guidelines and SoPs, whoever he may be and whatever position the violator is occupying,” it said.
It said more police be deployed at places like food courts, eateries, vegetable markets, mandis, bus stations and railway stations where there is likelihood of gathering.
“As far as possible, unless must, no permission shall be granted by the local administration or the collector/DSP for celebration/gathering even during the day hours and wherever the permissions are granted, the local administration/DSP/collector/police In-charge of the local police station shall ensure the strict compliance of the guidelines/SoPs,” it said adding there should be a mechanism to check the number of people attending such gatherings and there shall be more and more testing and correct facts and figures should be declared otherwise people will be misled.
“Any decision to impose curfew and/or lockdown must be announced long in advance so that the people may know and make provisions for their livelihood, like ration etc,” it said, adding, “Curfew on weekends/night be considered by states where it is not in place”.
“Whenever directions are issued under the Disaster Management Act directing the corporate hospitals/private hospitals to keep 50 per cent or any other percentage free municipal beds, it must be strictly complied with and there shall be constant vigilance and supervision,” it said, adding there shall be free helpline numbers to redress grievances of citizens when there is non-compliance of directions by these hospitals.
It said in a micro containment zone or in an area where number of cases are on the higher side, “to cut the chain” they should be sealed and there should be complete lockdown so far as such areas are concerned.
“Such containment areas need to be sealed for few days except essential services. The same is required to break the chain of virus spread,” it said.
It also dealt with another issue raised before it regarding gathering organised by political parties in elections during pandemic.
It said that poll panel had issued broad guidelines for conduct of General Elections/Bye-Elections during COVID-19 in August and guidelines were also issued regarding campaign by political parties. PTI ABA MNL SJK ABA RKS RKS