New Delhi: Pulling up the K. Chandrasekhar Rao government for low Covid-19 testing, the Telangana High Court has directed that dead bodies being released from hospitals in the state also need to be tested.
In doing so, the bench comprising HC Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B. Vijayasen Reddy set aside a letter issued on 20 April by Telangana’s Director of Public Health and Family Welfare, instructing hospitals to not collect any samples from dead bodies for checking Covid-19 infections.
Highlighting the possibility of the virus spreading through untested dead bodies, the court observed Tuesday, “If the dead body of such a person were to be handed over to the family, without taking a sample and testing it for presence of the virus, a distinct possibility does exist that the family members may become infected with coronavirus”.
It added, “Hence, it is imperative that every dead body, being released from the hospitals, necessarily has to be tested in order to eliminate the possibility that the dead body, even of an asymptomatic person, is not a carrier of coronavirus.”
The court was hearing a batch of five petitions, which among other things, had alleged that the Telangana government was not carrying out Covid-19 tests as vigorously as it should.
Earlier this month, the Modi government had also pulled up the KCR administration in Telangana for its low testing numbers, saying the “lack of proactive testing” will not help the state contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
In its order, the HC asked the Telangana government to increase the number of tests being carried out throughout the state as far as practically and financially feasible, but added the government “cannot be permitted to hide behind the fig leaf of “financial constraints” as the life of the people of the State is priceless”.
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“Moreover, to ignore the presence of coronavirus by not testing large number of population is inviting the Trojan Horse into our citadel,” it added.
The court directed the government to carry out random testing and community testing in red zones, orange zones and containment areas. It also asked the government to inform the HC about the number of such tests carried out and the places where they were carried out.
Asserting that “we cannot afford the luxury of resting on our oars”, the high court said “self-congratulating ourselves, at this juncture, may be too early in the day”.
‘State plans to have 4 adults on every bed’
The Telangana High Court referred to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines “for recording of Covid-19 related deaths in India”, which it said emphasised the need for recording the cause of death of patients.
The court said the government’s 20 April letter “flies in the face of the guidelines issued by ICMR”.
It also cited news reports that had highlighted low-testing in Telangana.
While it had earlier directed the state government to file a detailed report on the extent of tests carried out by it, the court Tuesday noted that the report submitted by Dr G. Srinivasa Rao, Telangana State Director of Public Health and Family Welfare, was “vague” and “contradictory”.
For instance, it noted that the state government claimed it envisages the hospitalisation of 12,000 people, but also submitted that there were only 3,537 proposed oxygen beds which are expected to be ready by 4 June.
“Thus, obviously, the State plans to have four adults on every bed. To say the least, if this is the level of “preparedness” of the State, it is a frightening scenario for the people of the State,” it observed.
‘Complete report’ on tests conducted
The Telangana High Court sought a “complete report” on the number of people tested from 1 to 25 May, including those who were “asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case”.
It demanded to know whether people who were direct contacts of a positive person were tested, and whether migrant workers entering the state were tested for Covid-19.
“The number of migrant workers tested, the number of migrant workers found to be ‘positive’ should be revealed,” it said.
The court has also asked the KCR government to reveal the number of migrant workers who have been quarantined, both institutionally and at home, and whether those quarantined at home have been placed under medical surveillance.
“Furthermore, the State should also inform if the families of these migrant workers, and the neighbours of these migrant workers, found to be positive, are also being medically examined or not, in order to see the possibility of spread of coronavirus at the village level or not?” it asked.
Additionally, it directed the government to inform the court about how many zones have changed their colors from ‘red’ to ‘orange’ and from ‘orange’ to ‘green’.
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