The Supreme Court on Friday ordered all states to fix “reasonable rates” for providing ambulance services to all coronavirus patients, NDTV reported. The court also asked the states to ensure that there are a sufficient number of ambulances available in each district to take patients to hospital.

The court observed that many ambulance services have been overcharging Covid-19 patients. “States are bound to carry out the advisory issued by the Centre to deal with the pandemic,” it said. A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan issued the directives on a petition seeking directions to increase number of ambulances for coronavirus patients. A non-governmental organisation named “Earth” had filed the plea through advocate Ashok Tamta, Live Law reported.

The plea contended that there was an acute shortage of ambulance services throughout the country, as well as mismanagement of such services. The plea also asked for formulating a “centralised mechanism and/or operation centres” in order to increase the number of ambulances by converting public transport vehicles into ambulances.

There have been instances of coronavirus patients dying because of delay in getting an ambulance. Mumbai, for instance, has less than 100 municipal corporation-run ambulances. Private ambulance services are available faster, at two or three hours’ notice, but they are also expensive for most citizens: as much as Rs 10,000 for a trip to a hospital, according to a report.

In Pune, a case was filed against an ambulance service provider for charging a coronavirus patient Rs 8,000 for a 7-km ride on June 25.

India reported a record increase of 96,550 new coronavirus cases on Friday, taking its tally to 45,62,414. The country’s toll rose by 1,209 to 76,271. As many as 35,42,663 people have recovered from the infection. India’s recovery rate is currently 77.65%, while the mortality rate is 1.67%.

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