Allahabad, April 13: The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to look into the viability of a complete lockdown in districts where COVID-19 has spread at an alarming rate over the last two to three weeks, saying if the situation was not handled carefully and cautiously it may lead to a complete collapse of the public health system.
The high court, which favoured restriction on public gatherings to 50 persons, also asked authorities to give priority to public health over elections (panchayat).
"We understand that complete lockdown for weeks together may not be feasible but looking to the current surge of pandemic, we direct the government to look into the viability of complete lockdown in those districts where spread has increased alarmingly, for at least two weeks or three weeks and at least immediately all public gatherings must be restricted to 50 persons," a bench comprising Justices Siddhartha Varma and Ajit Kumar said.
Districts like Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur, Gorakhpur have been badly hit by the COVID-19 infection.
The high court directed the Centre and the State Government to ensure sufficient production of the drug Remdesivir by making its raw materials available to pharma companies, ensuring its supply in open market and to take stern action against those who are hoarding it and are involved in its black marketing.
"The surge has absolutely paralysed public life and all the medical aid systems have reached a stage of complete saturation. We have been informed that COVID Hospitals are over-flooded with COVID patients and there is both manpower shortage and available facilities in hospitals," the bench observed.
"The situation is so alarming that if it is not handled carefully and cautiously we may lead to stage of complete collapse of the public health system," observed the bench which was dealing with a PIL on the condition of quarantine centres and treatment of coronavirus infected patients in Uttar Pradesh.
The bench, which passed a slew of directions, said: "While we insist for emergency purchases of bipap machines and high flow cannula masks to meet the demand of patients who may even be lying in the corridors of COVID hospitals/ centres, we direct the Government to acquire open places in the city areas of districts that are worst hit in the state to set up temporary level 1 hospital in a makeshift structure."
The bench asked the state government to "arrange manpower on contract basis immediately to serve all those who are admitted to temporary level 1 COVID hospitals/centres."
"We also direct for immediate purchase and supply of bipap machine and high flow cannula mask in ambulance to all the district hospitals and level 2 and level hospitals of the districts like Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur, Gorakhpur where COVID infection has got widely spread," the bench said.
"We have been informed that a new COVID testing machine (COVAS) is not functioning for want of testing kit. We direct the state government to provide/arrange testing kits available for COVAS machine at Moti Lal Nehru Medical College, Prayagraj within twenty four hours," the bench said.
The high court asked the state government to vigorously carry out the immunisation programme in the state.
On medical needs of non-COVID patients, the bench said, "We must not forget that people suffer from various other diseases and so they may need not only urgent medical help but incentive care admission as well."The bench directed the state government to buy more ICU beds for hospitals.
"We must give priority to public health over elections and the Government is expected to streamline every department of public health and public care in the light of the observations made here in above" said the bench while fixing April 19 as the next date of hearing in the case.
During the course of hearing, some lawyers complained that health officials are not conducting COVID-19 tests properly to show lesser COVID patients and that testing samples are kept waiting for more than twelve hours.
The court directed District Magistrate as well as CMO of Prayagraj to be present on video conferencing during the course of hearing.