New Delhi: Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal Monday overruled the AAP government’s decision to not test suspected asymptomatic patients for Covid-19, stating it could result in inadequate contact-tracing of affected individuals and further spread the disease in the national capital.
The order came soon after Baijal overruled another decision of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s government, stating treatment for Covid-19 would only be provided to residents of the national capital in Delhi government-run and private hospitals.
On Sunday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced the hospitals run by the Delhi government and private entities will only treat Delhiites for Covid and that asymptomatic patients need not get tested.
ICMR’s testing guidelines need to be followed
Baijal overruled the orders Monday in his capacity as the chairperson of the DDMA (Delhi Disaster Management Authority), and directed departments and authorities concerned to follow the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (for testing Covid patients without any deviation).
The ICMR had issued guidelines for Covid testing on 18 May, which prescribed testing for nine categories, including asymptomatic, direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case, to be tested once between day 5 and day 10 of coming in contact with a Covid-positive patient.
Going against the guidelines, the Directorate General of Health Services, Delhi government, issued an order on 2 June regarding guidelines for Covid testing to be followed in Delhi, wherein the requirement of testing asymptomatic, direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case were changed from the one prescribed by the ICMR.
The LG’s order issued Monday stated the deviation from the ICMR guidelines could result in the spread of the disease in Delhi and, hence, even the asymptomatic patients need to be tested for the infection.
“In order to contain the spread of Covid-19, it is essential to conduct a thorough contact-tracing of affected person, especially in containment zones and as such, the ICMR strategy for Covid-19 testing should be followed without any deviation,” the order said.
“In exercise of powers conferred under section 18 (3) read with section 18 (2) (d) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the undersigned (LG) hereby directs all department and authorities concerned of NCT of Delhi, to ensure that ICMR strategy for Covid-19 testing in India, issued on 18 May, is strictly observed in NCT Delhi without any deviation,” the order said.
‘Denying treatment impermissible’
The LG said the Right to Health and Right to Life are integral parts of the Constitution and cannot be taken away, and thus denying patients medical treatment on grounds of not being residents of Delhi is “impermissible”.
“After examining Constitutional provisions in detail, especially Article 14 and 21 and after looking at jurisprudence in this regard, has held that denying patients medical treatment on grounds of not being residents of NCT of Delhi is impermissible,” the order stated.
“All governments and private hospitals and nursing homes situated in Delhi have to extend medical facilities to all Covid-19 patients coming for monitoring/ treatment without any discrimination,” according to the order.
“In the exercise of powers conferred under section 18 (3) of the DDMA, the undersigned in his capacity as the chairperson of the DDMA, hereby directs all departments and authorities concerned of NCT of Delhi, to ensure that medical treatment is not denied to any patient on the ground of not being a resident of NCT Delhi,” the order added.
In response to the LG’s order, Kejriwal tweeted: “LG Sahib’s order has created a huge problem and challenge for the people of Delhi. Providing treatment for people coming from all over the country is a big challenge. May god bless us to serve the people of the whole country. We will try to provide treatment to all.”