KOHIMA, MAY 27: The Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court has asked the Nagaland Government to take up measures of designating isolation centres, ramp up testing facilities, make all COVID-19 tests free, take vaccination on war footing, submit report on workforce availability at health facilities and control the escalating price of burials.
Justice Songkhupchung Serto and Justice S Hukato Swu of Gauhati issued the suo moto directives on May 24, 2021 after hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on May 5, 2021 and listed the matter for hearing on June 10.
The Court noted that when the pandemic struck the State last year, the State Government had set up quarantine centres for isolation of those who were found to be COVID positive; while in the villages, the villagers had also set up such centres on their own.
But this time, it noted, these facilities are absent.
Instead, home isolation for those who are infected with COVID has been by and large put to practice, it remarked.
However, taking into account the economic status of the people, by and large it may be that only few privileged people who belong to higher economic strata may have the facilities for such isolation in their own homes, the Court observed and stated that before directing a person to stay under home isolation, the Surveillance Teams constituted by the Government should first verify whether the family has sufficient rooms and other facilities in the house where the infected person can be isolated, and if only such facilities are found, the person should be directed to stay under home isolation.
In the event such a person is kept under home isolation, the Court asked the Surveillance Team to stick a notice on the gate of the house stating that the inmate(s) of the house are under isolation so that people may avoid visiting them for such a period as may be required.
The Surveillance Team should also ensure that none of the inmates of such houses venture out till such time as directed, it said.
Since the persons in home isolation will not be allowed to go out, their medical and other needs should be the responsibility of the Government, the Court ruled, adding that for those who can afford, the Government need not take the responsibility of their needs except for medical advice.
In case the Surveillance Team finds that such families have no facilities for home quarantine, the State Government should designate a place or places for keeping such persons in isolation, it said.
The GHC Kohima Bench also asked the State Government to explore possibilities of involving Village Councils/Churches and other Civil Society Organisations and authorities concerned of the wards (in the case of towns) to set up such facilities.
The Government should provide all that is necessary for such exercises, it said.
As for the expenditures on food, the Court left it to the Government to explore ways and means, in consultation with the Village Councils and NGOs, including churches.
Regarding collection of fees for testing of persons for COVID-19, the Court said the Counsel appearing for Department of Health and Family Welfare, N Mozhui had clarified that fees are taken only from persons who come voluntarily for testing. He also submitted that random testing is going on everywhere and people who are tested in such exercises are not charged any fees.
The Court said that unless people are tested, there is no way to know whether they have been infected with the virus or not.
Maintaining that since the State is in the midst of the virus spreading far and wide, even in the rural areas, the Court viewed that fees should not be charged even from persons who come on their own for testing.
Maintaining that the number of testing in a day is still less than desired in the State, the GHC Kohima Bench said testing facilities should be increased and testing should be ramped up.
Accordingly, the Court directed the HFW Department and State Government to increase testing facilities and place them even at the level of PHCs and CHCs.
“We are aware that RT-PCR testing facilities are available only at 3 places i.e. at Dimapur, Kohima and Tuensang. The State may explore the feasibility of establishing such facilities even at other strategic places. However, for the PHCs and CHCs facilities of testing by TrueNat or Rapid Antigen Test may serve the purpose”, the Court said.
On COVID-19 vaccination, the Court while not belittling the efforts made by the State Government and all those who are working day and night, urged that the vaccine be made available at the earliest and vaccination drive also be done on a war footing.
The Court also noted that the vaccination days fixed in a week for the age group of 18 to 44 years may be increased so that the available vaccine doses may be given to persons who come forward at the earliest.
Currently the State has earmarked 2 days a week (Monday & Tuesday) for vaccination of this age group.
On people’s reluctance to take the vaccine, the Court directed the Government to take appropriate steps in coordination with Doordarshan, All India Radio and other print and digital media to spread awareness so that any fear or reservation that is in the mind of the people would be removed and the vaccination drive taken up by the Health Department would go on smoothly, and the same is completed at the earliest.
For the aged and physically-challenged persons, the Court viewed that the State Government should make special arrangements to reach out to them with the vaccine.
Regarding workforce, the Court affidavit, as suggested by the Amicus Curiae appointed by Bench, Taka Masa, directed the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) of the district to submit a report each on the manpower availability at PHCs and CHCs and district hospitals to get the clear picture at the ground level.
Also maintaining that it has also been brought to the notice of the Court that charges for burials have been exorbitantly high for those who died due to COVID infection, the Court said “since we are in war-like situation, we would expect that the Government will take the burden at least for those who cannot afford”.
The Court also urged the Government to take appropriate action so that burial charges are not unreasonably high.
Listing the matter for hearing again on June 10, the Court, in view of the nature and scope of the PIL, also viewed that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare should be made a party.
(Page News Service)