The Delhi High Court Monday expressed concern over spike in cases of COVID-19 in the national capital by terming it as "worrisome" and directed the Delhi government to re-strategise the testing so that maximum number of cases which are turning out to be asymptomatic can undergo a test at private laboratories to prevent spread of coronavirus infection.
The high court also asked the Delhi government to set up within a week COVID-19 testing camps at Inter-state bus terminals (ISBT) like Anand Vihar, Kashmiri Gate and Sarai Kale khan for migrants who are returning to the capital in large numbers from different states.
“The Delhi government shall make sure that they re-strategise the testing in Delhi so that maximum number of cases which are turning out to be asymptomatic can actually undergo a test to prevent spread of COVID-19 . “Moreso, since unlock 4.0 has been declared by the Central government, there is free movement provided to people in almost all the sectors,” a bench of justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said.
The bench expressed concern over the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, which on Sunday crossed 2,000, and said the way figures are increasing every week is “worrisome”. During the hearing, Delhi government's counsel Satyakam, submitted that one of the factors of increasing number of cases was the festive season as people have started coming out and intermingling with each other.
To this, the bench said people are adhering to government guidelines scrupulously and though they have started coming out, this cannot justify doubling of figures and the period of doubling is worrisome. Satyakam also said the Delhi government was fully prepared and there was no dearth of resources.
“This dragon (COVID-19) is behaving in a different way. We are doing it in the best possible way and are finding ways to expand the testing,” he submitted. The bench said, “you (Delhi government) thought you had slayer the dragon. However, this dragon has several heads which is making life miserable for people. Cases are rising in the city everyday.” Meanwhile, the high court queried the Delhi government and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as to when the sanctioned strength of conducting RT/PCR test is 14,000, why there is restriction on those who willingly want to undergo the test at their own expenses.
Senior scientist at ICMR Dr Nivedita Gupta submitted that it was an advisory board and research centre and the states have the freedom to tailor the advisories as per the situation and if the states want to increase the number of tests, they do not have any problem. With this, the high court asked the Delhi government to access the situation and re-strategise testing as presently around 7000 tests are being done.
“We expect the Delhi government to come up with an advisory for private persons to get themselves tested for COVID 19 through RT/PCR as long as it does not impact the test of samples sent by the Delhi government to private laboratories or the timeline within which the reports are to be submitted to the Delhi government of the said tests. “In any case the charges of testing through private labs for RT/PCR has been capped by the Delhi government at Rs 2,400 per test,” the bench said.
The high court was also informed that a second sero survey has been conducted in Delhi and the report is yet to be given to the Delhi government by Dr. Maulana Azad Medical College. After pursuing the report of the first sero survey, the court said the conclusion drawn is critical as a significant population of Delhi remains asymptomatic and it is this population which is causing silent spread of the disease.
The court asked the Delhi government to file its status report along wht analysis of the second sero survey and listed the matter for hearing on September 8. RT/PCR, short for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction, is a laboratory technique widely used in the diagnosis of genetic diseases and to measure gene expression in research.
The court was hearing a PIL by advocate Rakesh Malhotra seeking increasing the COVID-19 testing numbers in the national capital and getting speedy results.