The Supreme Court on Friday highlighted the utter disregard for social distancing norms across the country looking to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, and warned the state governments that if they do not rise above politics and take harsher measures, the efforts taken so far to curb the spread of the virus will go in vain.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by justice Ashok Bhushan said, “We are watching celebrations and processions across the country. Around 60% people have no masks, 30% have their masks hanging. What implementation is this? There are guidelines but who is there to enforce. Since the beginning of this month, the situation has gone from bad to worse. This calls for harsher measures (from states). They must rise above politics or else all efforts taken by them (Centre and states) will go in vain.”
The observations came during the hearing of a suo moto petition on proper treatment of Covid-19 patients and dignified handling of dead bodies in hospitals.
The bench was shocked to note that a fire at a Covid-19 hospital in Rajkot, Gujarat, on Thursday led to the death of five patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). “It is not the first incident in a Covid hospital where due to fire, patients have died. These incidents are being repeated from state to state and from hospital to hospital. We notice that neither concrete steps have been taken by the states in this regard nor any mechanism to prevent or ameliorate the situation is in place,” said the bench, also comprising justices RS Reddy and MR Shah.
The court took cognisance of the Rajkot incident and called for a report from the Gujarat government pointing to action taken with regard to a similar fire that took place at a Covid-19 hospital in Ahmedabad in August in which eight people died. “Some directions are necessary to be passed throughout the country. Centre has to take a lead in this matter. States must put necessary infrastructure (fire-fighting equipment) in place. There should be round-the-clock monitoring,” it said.