“Consider Lockdown To Curb Second Covid Wave”: SC Tells Centre, States

The Apex Court on Sunday directed that no patient shall be denied hospitalisation or essential drugs in any State or Union Territory for lack of local residential or identity proof.

Issuing a slew of directions to the Central and state governments on the COVID-19 situation, the Apex Court on Sunday directed that no patient shall be denied hospitalisation or essential drugs in any State or Union Territory for lack of local residential or identity proof.

Directing the Central government to formulate a national policy on admissions to hospitals, within two weeks, a Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud said the policy shall be followed by all state governments and till then no patients will be denied admission or essential drugs in absence of local residential or identity proof.

In its order, the top court noted that gaining admission into a hospital with a bed is one of the biggest challenges being faced by most individuals during this second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Left to their own devices, citizens have had to suffer immeasurable hardship. Different states and local authorities follow their own protocols. Differing standards for admission in different hospitals across the nation leads to chaos and uncertainty. The situation cannot brook any delay,” the court observed.

“Accordingly, we direct the Central Government to frame a policy in this regard, in exercise of its statutory powers under the Disaster Management Act, which will be followed nationally. The presence of such a policy shall ensure that no one in need is turned away from a hospital, due to no fault of their own,” it added.

In its order released late Sunday night, the top court directed that the Central government, in collaboration with State governments, create a buffer stock of oxygen to ensure supply lines continue to function even in unforeseen circumstances and decentralise the location of the emergency stocks.

“The emergency stocks shall be created within the next four days and is to be replenished on a day to day basis, in addition to the existing allocation of oxygen supply to the States,” the order said.

In terms of the assurance of the Solicitor General, the Supreme Court also asked the Centre to ensure that the deficit in the supply of oxygen to Delhi is rectified within two days, that is, on or before midnight of May 3, 2021.

It also observed that in the battle of shifting the responsibility of supplying/off-taking of oxygen, “lives of citizens cannot be put in jeopardy”.

“The protection of the lives of citizens is paramount in times of a national crisis and the responsibility falls on both the Central Government and the Delhi government to cooperate with each other to ensure that all possible measures are taken to resolve the situation,” the Bench added in its order.

“We would seriously urge the Central and State governments to consider imposing a ban on mass gatherings and super spreader events. They may also consider imposing a lockdown to curb the virus in the second wave in the interest of public welfare,” the top court said.

“Having said that, we are cognizant of the socio-economic impact of a lockdown, specifically, on the marginalized communities. Thus, in case the measure of a lockdown is imposed, arrangements must be made beforehand to cater to the needs of these communities,” it added.

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