As state governments across the country mobilised resources and adopted new measures to combat the spread of the virus, the Supreme Court on Monday questioned the Centre, Delhi and Gujarat governments over the recent COVID-19 surge.
The apex court bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, RS Reddy, and MR Shah stated that the pandemic "has worsened in Delhi and gone out of control in Gujarat". The court then directed the Centre and all states to apprise it within two days of the steps taken to contain the situation nationwide.
The situation is likely to worsen in December and all states have to be ready to "combat" it, the top court said while expressing concern over the spurt in coronavirus cases across the country.
"We are of the view that the immediate steps are required to be taken by all the states as well as by the Union of India. Let status report, as indicated, be filed within two days from today and the matter be listed on 27 November, 2020 for consideration and passing appropriate orders," the court said.
As part of measures to curb the COVID-19 spread, the Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra on Monday made it mandatory for those seeking to arrive in the state from Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa to carry a negative RT-PCR report.
For those flying in, the RT-PCR sample collection should have been done within 72 hours of the scheduled time of landing at airports in Maharashtra, a government order was quoted by PTI as saying. In case of journey by trains, the collection of RT-PCR samples should have been done within 96 hours before the scheduled arrival in Maharashtra.
Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar hinted on Sunday at a lockdown in Maharashtra, a decision on which will be taken after a review of the coronavirus situation in 8 to 10 days.
He said authorities are taking stock of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pune district, and added, "The positivity rate in Pune district is around 13 percent. There were huge crowds during Diwali period. Even at the time of Ganesha Chaturthi, we saw crowds. We will see how the situation turns up after another eight to 10 days. Lockdowns have been imposed in other countries. It depends on what kind of situation prevails in Pune district."
Meanwhile, a snapshot of the COVID-19 situation nationwide showed that the total caseload went past 91 lakh with 44,059 cases being reported on Monday. Data updated by the Union health ministry at 8 am showed that total recoveries have surged to 85,62,641.
Additionally, the toll climbed to 1,33,738 with 511 new fatalities including 121 from Delhi alone, the data updated at 8 am showed.
The national recovery rate was recorded at 93.68 percent, while the COVID-19 case fatality rate stands at 1.46 percent.
The number of active cases remained below 5 lakh for the thirteenth consecutive day, the ministry said. There are 4,43,486 active cases as on date, which comprises 4.85 percent of the total caseload, the data stated.
Meanwhile, Veteran Congress leader and three-term former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi passed away due to post COVID-19 complications at the age of 84.
'COVID-19 situation is out of control in Delhi, Gujarat'
The Supreme Court on Monday told Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, appearing for the Delhi government, "Things have worsened in Delhi especially in November. You file a status report on what steps are being taken to contain the situation."
"In Gujarat, the situation is going out of control," said the bench, while noting that this month there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases throughout the country, especially in Delhi, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
"There is a spike in cases and this is only November. Prepare for the worst in December. You have to take immediate steps," the bench told advocate Rahul Chitnis, appearing for Maharashtra.
The court pulled up the Gujarat government for allowing huge gatherings in functions, including wedding celebrations, saying that the cases are rising there and the situation has worsened in the state just after Delhi and Maharashtra. The top court also sought to know the policy of Gujarat government on allowing social gathering during the pandemic and said that situation has gone out of control in the state.
Delhi recorded 6,746 fresh COVID-19 cases on Sunday while 121 more fatalities pushed the death toll to 8,391. The total number of cases in Delhi had climbed to 5,29,863 of which 4,81,260 have recovered.
Gujarat on Sunday had reported 1,495 fresh positive cases, taking the total count of infections to 1,97,412, while fatalities mounted to 3,859.
With the addition of 5,753 coronavirus positive cases in Maharashtra on Sunday, the state's overall infection count increased to 17,80,208 and the death of 50 patients took the fatality count to 46,623.
The bench was hearing the matter on Monday in which it had taken cognisance regarding need for proper treatment of COVID-19 patients and dignified handling of dead bodies in the hospitals.
During the hearing, the bench noted the submission of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who said that home minister Amit Shah had chaired a meeting on 15 November and steps are being taken to deal with the situation in Delhi.
Maharashtra makes RT-PCR negative report mandatory to enter
The Maharashtra government on Monday also made it mandatory to have COVID-19 screening at border check posts for people coming by road. Passengers without symptoms will be allowed entry. Road travellers with symptoms shall have the option of turning back and going to their home to recuperate, a state government order said.
The four states " Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa " have been reporting high caseload of the coronavirus disease. People with COVID-19 symptoms seeking to enter the state from Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa will be turned back, the order said.
"The Airports Authority of India is requested to check the report before allowing passengers to board the flight," the government order said.
The state government on Monday came out with revised standard operating procedures on preventive measures to check the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
Air travellers not having the RT-PCR test reports shall compulsorily undergo RT-PCR test at the concerned airports at their own cost, the government said in the order. "The airport shall arrange (for) the testing centres and charge the passengers directly for testing," the order said.
Ex-Assam CM Tarun Gogoi passes away
Gogoi, who passed away on Monday, is survived by wife Dolly, daughter Chandrima and son Gaurav, a Lok Sabha member.
Gogoi, thrice chief minister of the state from 2001 to 2016, breathed his last at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) at 5.34 pm, Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
The veteran Congress leader was first admitted to the hospital on 26 August after testing positive for COVID-19 and was discharged for a brief period before being admitted again on 2 November. His condition deteriorated on 21 November, following multi-organ failure and was put on invasive ventilation.
Gogoi was given dialysis on Sunday. His condition deteriorated further over the past few hours and the hospital where he was admitted said he was "very, very critical". Gogoi was the MLA from the Titabor Assembly constituency since 2001. He was also a six-time parliamentarian and became Union minister twice.
His body will be taken to his residence in Dispur and from there to the Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra where people can pay their homage to the leader on Tuesday, said Sarma, a former cabinet colleague of Gogoi.
He will be cremated with full state honours and the venue will be decided in consultation with his family, the minister added.
According to the ICMR, over 13.25 crore samples have been tested up to 22 November with 8,49,596 samples being tested on Sunday.
The 511 new fatalities include 121 from Delhi, 50 from Maharashtra, 49 from West Bengal, 35 from Uttar Pradesh, 27 from Kerala and 25 from Haryana.
A total of 1,33,738 deaths have been reported so far in the country including 46,623 from Maharashtra followed by 11,654 from Karnataka, 11,605 from Tamil Nadu, 8,391 from Delhi, 8,025 from West Bengal, 7,559 from Uttar Pradesh, 6,938 from Andhra Pradesh, 4,614 from Punjab and 3,859 from Gujarat.
With inputs from agencies