The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the Centre to ensure that appropriate personal protection equipment, or PPE, are available for medical personnel combating the coronavirus outbreak across the country, PTI reported. The court said doctors and medical staff are the “first line of defence of the country” in fighting Covid-19.

The top court expressed concern over incidents of attacks on doctors and nurses. It directed the Centre, states and Union Territories to provide necessary police security to the medical staff in hospitals and places where patients, who are either quarantined, suspected or diagnosed with coronavirus are admitted. The court said security must be provided even when the medical staff go out to conduct screening of individuals.

“States shall also take necessary action against those persons who obstruct and commit any offence in respect to performance of duties by doctors, medical staff and other government officials deputed to contain Covid-19,” the court ruled.

The court was hearing three petitions seeking protective kits, other requisite equipment and safety measures for doctors and healthcare workers. “The government shall explore all alternatives including enabling and augmenting domestic production of protective clothing and gear to medical professional,” the court said in its order. “This includes exploring of alternative modes of production of such clothing [masks, suits, caps, gloves etc.] and permitting movement of raw materials.”

The court also said the Covid-19 pandemic is a “national calamity”, and asked citizens to be responsible, Bar and Bench reported. “The pandemic which is engulfing the entire country is a national calamity,” the Supreme Court said. “In wake of calamity of such nature all citizens of the country have to act in a responsible manner to extend helping hand to the Government and medical staff to perform their duties to contain and combat Covid-19.”

Till Wednesday, India recorded 5,274 cases of the contagion, with 149 deaths and 410 recoveries, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. India has imposed a 21-day lockdown which is scheduled to end on April 14, but may be extended.