The Madras High Court has reportedly cautioned the State that if Covid-19 norms are not followed during the counting of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election votes, scheduled on May 2, the process will be directed to stop “then and there”, reported Bar & Bench.
The Bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee orally observed that the crisis unfolding before us would not have happened if there was proper planning. Bar & Bench quoted him saying, “You had all of last year to plan and take a decision. If it had been done, we would not be in this situation…We were lulled into a false sense of security only to be hit by this tsunami of infection now.”
Supply of oxygen
The Tamil Nadu government has told the Bench that they have oxygen in surplus but they don’t intend to divert it to other states amid the surge. “The State says that though there is adequate supply and storage of oxygen at the moment, the State is not inclined to have oxygen diverted to anywhere else since the daily use of oxygen has been on the rise and, in a worst-case scenario, all of the available oxygen in the State may be necessary”, recorded the order.
The Court was apprised that the Chief Minister has also written to Prime Minister Modi on this issue to ensure that there is no further diversion of oxygen from the state to anywhere else. The State has further told the court that following an all-party meeting convened by the Chief Minister, Sterlite industries has been allowed to produce oxygen for medical use.
The Bench noted, “The State, however, says that only limited supply of liquefied oxygen may be initially available, but the owners have assured the State that immediate measures would be taken to put in place a system by which gaseous oxygen will be converted into liquefied oxygen for medical use with the appropriate content in excess of 99% oxygen.”
Tamil Nadu has sufficient medicines and on the availability of Remdesivir 100mg, the State said that “such drug is not meant for everyday use by every person, nor is it a cure for Covid-19, though it reduces the incidence of the person administered the drug in transmitting the virus to others. The State added that drugs Tocilizumab 400mg and Enoxaparian 40mg are also used in the treatment of Covid-19 and, there is sufficient supply of such drugs in the State, at least with government hospitals and government centres.”
The court has noted that Remdesivir will not be distributed amongst people carelessly. Only upon production of appropriate documents, including the screening report, a positive test report and the scan of the lungs, would the drug be released.
According to the Health Secretary, additional beds are being added not only in Chennai, but also in the major urban centres like Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli and Tirunelveli. “Further, only 25 percent of the persons struck by the virus may need hospital admission and 15 percent of them may need oxygen beds”, submitted the State.
The government also referred to their website, www.stopcorona.tn.gov.in, which gives real-time information as to the number of beds available and where they are available. The State told the court that it has augmented the number of beds at government hospitals and centres, and private hospitals have dedicated more beds apart from requisitioning hotels to be turned into Covid centres.
The government also apprised the Division Bench of the unnecessary panic in the state with respect to availability of resources. It has asserted that while most cases would not require hospitalisation, the patient may not have the expertise to decide whether or not they need the bed or Remdesivir and “in the panic that follows the discovery of a near relative infected with the virus, confused steps are taken that hinder the functioning at the designated hospitals and centres.”
But with the current situation of rising cases and deaths, the court noted that the figures would double in less than ten days and more beds, more oxygen and more ventilators would be necessary along with a greater supply of medicines to treat the symptoms.
The Bench of Chief Justice Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy were very clear about the authorities’ conduct during elections. It said, “Both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have to be particularly aware of the fact that counting of votes will be undertaken from the early hours of May 2, 2021 and the counting activities must be held in complete Covid protocol, without any compromise at all.”
The votes are slated to be counted on May 2, 2021 and the Election Commission in consultation with the State Government authorities in Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry have been directed to put appropriate measures in place that ensures that there is no further spurt in cases. “Public health, after all, is more important than counting votes. The process may be delayed or even deferred, but public health must not be compromised”, said the Bench.
If necessary, the court has said that the “State may consider imposing a lockdown on May 1, which was traditionally a holiday, and again on May 2, which is a Sunday, and only allow movement of vehicles needed for the purpose of counting and related purposes, apart from emergency vehicles”.
Finally, the court remarked that as of now, the situation does not appear to be completely out of control, though there are some “horror-stories” which are available in the media and some other anecdotal on the social media. “However, continued vigil must be maintained and the matter dealt with sternly with appropriate personnel being empowered to take on-the-spot decisions which are critical”, said the court.
The court has importantly also said that, “It would also do well for the State and the Union Territory to completely eschew the VIP-culture and ensure that facilities are available to citizens without consideration of status or the like of the patient or her relatives.”
The matter will be heard on April 29 (if not necessary to be taken up earlier)
The order may be read here:
Courtesy: Sabrang India