New Delhi: The central government Thursday told the Supreme Court that the healthcare workers had the “final responsibility” to protect themselves from Covid-19.
The Union health ministry, in an affidavit filed with the apex court, said that hospital infection control committees were responsible for implementing Covid-19 prevention and control activities, but ultimately “it is also his/her responsibility to adequately train himself/herself and take all possible measures for preventing the infection”.
This was in response to the petition filed by Dr Arushi Jain, challenging the central government’s new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for frontline Covid-19 healthcare workers. The new SOP, issued on 15 May, ended the mandatory 14-day quarantine for them.
The Court had, on 27 May, asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to file a response to the plea within a week.
The central government called the plea “completely presumptuous, vacuous, ill-founded and sans any empirical or medical evidence”.
It asserted that the petitioner had failed to file “any evidence” to show that doctors were being diagnosed with Covid-19 despite using PPEs.
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In case of high-exposure, quarantine remains an option: Govt
The government also submitted that the guidelines have been framed by experts in the field and “cannot be devised/altered or re-casted based on the individual perception of some medical professionals; which in certain cases, if not in the present case, can be based on either their individual experience or on extraneous considerations”.
The affidavit stated that “if adequate measures are scrupulously observed, the HCWs (health care workers’) chances of contracting the infection would not be higher than that of any other person”.
In case of high exposure, the 14-day quarantine still remains as an option, it added.
According to the response submitted, the decision to do away with the quarantine period was taken after duly consulting with the Joint Monitoring Group of WHO. It added that its risk assessment approach was in line with the guidelines issued by Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta, USA.
Finally, the government asserted that with Covid-19 cases constantly increasing, at some point in the near future several make-shift hospitals will also have to be created, in addition to the existing ones, to accommodate patients.
“Hence, conserving health care workforce is the need of hour in order to cater to the anticipated patient load in the house of distress,” it said.
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