The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to pass directions regarding quarantine of doctors engaged in treating Covid-19 patients and salaries of healthcare workers by Thursday, reported Live Law. The bench said non-adherence to these directions will be deemed an offence under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and asked the Centre to file a compliance report within four weeks.

The court was hearing a petition seeking separate residential facilities for doctors treating patients affected by the coronavirus, by acquiring hotels and guest houses close to the hospitals. The plea, filed by Dr Arushi Jain, contended that currently health workers were made to share rooms, which defeated the purpose of self-containment. On May 15, the Centre had said in a notification that only those health workers who fall under the ambit of “high risk exposure” would need to be quarantined for 14 days.

The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah said doctors and healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients should not be denied quarantine facilities. “Suppose a doctor with a PPE comes in contact with Covid-19 patient, then can’t he be said to be high risk case?” asked Justice Bhushan, according to Bar and Bench.

Solicitor General for India Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, assured the court that doctors and medical professionals coming in contact with coronavirus patients will be put under quarantine for a period of one week. “Regarding accommodation, even 5-star accommodation has been provided to the doctors,” he claimed. “Some lapse might have been there. We will address it.”

Mehta added that the government can issue a direction saying payment of salary has to be made, failing which it will be a criminal offence.

During an earlier hearing on June 12, the Supreme Court had observed that the Centre needed to do “much more” to address the concerns of medical professionals as the country cannot have “dissatisfied soldiers in this war against the coronavirus”. The court said that there were two main aspects for the government to consider while addressing the grievances of medical workers. First is the problem of high risk exposure for doctors handling Covid-19 patients, and the second is to provide them necessary accommodation with requisite parameters.