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“It’s a COVID-19 tsunami”, Gujarat govt tells high court

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Nirupam Banerjee, Ahmedabad: The state government on Thursday admitted before the Gujarat High Court that there is a “tsunami of COVID-19” going on and it is conscious of the “worsening situation” in the state. The admission came from advocate general Kamal Trivedi during his opening note in the hearing of the suo motu public interest litigation initiated by the high court on the issue.

The admission of the poor situation prevailing in the state forced the high court bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav Karia to remind the state government of a previous order of the court. The court in its previous order had suggested the state government last year to remain prepared for the worst as several countries were at that point in time facing the second and third wave of the pandemic.

The bench, during the hearing on Thursday, told the Gujarat government that the suggestions given by the court were not given importance and now, there is a tsunami of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state.

Court questions Gujarat government’s COVID related data

While the advocate general tried to justify the situation of the state government asserting that the whole government machinery is currently fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the high court questioned the authenticity of the COVID-19 related data submitted by the government.

While the government in its affidavit said that only 53 per cent of the 71,021 beds meant for COVID patients were occupied in the state as of April 12, the bench categorically said that it has serious doubt on this figure. The court also did not accept the state’s submission that all districts sans Dang have RT-PCR testing facilities.

Later on, two counsels who were part of the hearing refuted the claim made by the state government in this regard. Advocate Amit Panchal, who attended the virtual hearing, argued that according to the ICMR website, six districts in Gujarat—Tapi, Dang, Narmada, Mahisagar, Dwarka and Gir Somnath do not have RT-PCR facilities.

Also Read: India’s records over 2 lakh COVID-19 cases, 1,038 deaths in a day

Another counsel who took part in the hearing, Anand Yagnik, said that even in districts people have to travel 60-200 km for getting the RT-PCR test done. He urged that all 33 district panchayats and 259 taluka panchayats should have this testing facility.

On Remdesivir

The state government during the hearing tried to drive home the point that it has a “sufficient” stock of Remdesivir and there is no shortage of the drug. However, when the court questioned why the same has not been submitted by the government on oath, Trivedi tried to justify saying that there is rampant misuse of Remdesivir and it may not remain “sufficient” if the misuse prevails.

The government asserted that according to its expert panel, only those COVID-19 positive patients who have been running a high-grade fever for 4-5 days and oxygen saturation level below 90 should be administered Remdesivir. Trivedi said that the injection is supposed to be only provided in hospitals and can affect those with poor kidney and liver function.

The government also submitted that considering the prevalent situation, it will ensure that the injection is available in government hospitals and then it will ensure that the jab is available in designated COVID-19 hospital. It also said that many doctors are indiscriminately prescribing the jab to patients who are in home care.

This irked the court. It said, “Do you have any idea of its demand and requirement? You have ICMR, expert committee, doctors body is there. Are you saying doctors are responsible for the Remdesivir hype? Do you have any data that every doctor is prescribing Remdesivir for every COVID-19 patient?”

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice remarked, “The other reason for this shortage is that the figures declared by the state government of the positive cases do not match with the actual number of patients. The number is 7410 cases in a day, may be 500-1000 are admitted. Then your figures are not correct.”

On Oxygen shortage

On several reports of oxygen shortage, the HC rebuked the state government saying that patients requiring oxygen are not getting admission in hospitals. It also said that even during such a pandemic, there is black marketing of oxygen going on.

The state government submitted that Gujarat produces nearly 1,100 MT of oxygen. It said that the oxygen demand which was around 50 MT has now jumped to 730 MT. It said that the entire production of oxygen in Ahmedabad, Surat , Rajkot and Vadodara which is around 482 MT has been reserved for only medical use. It added that out of the remaining production 70 per cent has been reserved for medical use and only 30 per cent is being made available for industries.

HC offers to help AMC

Considering the prevalent situation, the high court has offered to help Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation by offering it the academy and the auditorium that has around 180-200 rooms that can be utilised to keep people related to the judiciary and the legal profession affected by the pandemic. It said AMC can approach the high court registrar general with a request, if it requires the facilities.

Next hearing

The high court has kept the next hearing of the matter on April 20.

 

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