The Gujarat High Court has asked the state government and the administration of Surat to explain why the coronavirus situation in the city has “gone from bad to worse”, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday. The court said they were informed that the authorities’ delayed response was responsible for the crisis.

A division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice JB Pardiwala was hearing a clutch of petitions pertaining to the escalating coronavirus outbreak in Surat, as the city has been reporting daily record highs in infections for over a month.

“The delayed response from the state and city administration is responsible for the current situation in the city of Surat, which has gone from bad to worse,” the High Court order, which was made public on Tuesday, stated. “The health department of the state government knew that Surat would erupt in a matter of time. We are informed that the testing was not ramped up…”

The bench observed that Surat has become the state’s hotspot of the pandemic with one in every five cases being reported from here, even after it reported an exodus of nearly 18 lakh migrants. It said that as Surat has “gone from bad to worse”, its effect will be seen in the entire south Gujarat, especially in rural areas. The High Court also observed that Surat’s mortality rate was “quite high”.

“After having witnessed what happened in Ahmedabad, the state should have been more careful in tackling the situation in the city of Surat,” it added. The court cited experts who said that Surat had to only replicate the “readily available and lauded Ahmedabad Model”, which had managed to bring the Covid-19 situation under control.

The High Court noted that Ahmedabad had managed to reduce its Covid-19 case burden from 65% to 42.2% as of July 24, the day of the hearing. In comparison, Surat’s caseload increased from 14.5% to 28.8% within a fortnight, the court said, warning that this was something that “should not be ignored”.

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“To keep Ahmedabad safe, it is important that for the time being, a travel ban is imposed between Surat and Ahmedabad…,” the court added.

The High Court has sought a report from the state government at the earliest on eight core issues. This includes preventive taken by the health department in Surat, hospitals providing Covid treatment, details of isolation beds and other critical care facilities, price regulation and bed availability for poor patients, number of active patients in hospitals, Covid care centres, home isolation facilities, and the measures taken to prevent Covid deaths.

It further demanded to know about the action taken by the government to control the spread of infection in rest of the state along with the steps taken to ensure workers’ safety in Surat’s diamond and textile industries.

On migrant workers returning to Gujarat, the court said that it expects the state government “to help and support all such migrant workers who are returning for the purpose of employment”. It further directed the state government to enhance the fine for not wearing mask in public places “to a minimum of Rs 1,000” across the state. Besides this, the court asked to take steps against rickshaw drivers who permit passengers to board without face masks.

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