The Delhi High Court on Wednesday urged residents not to hoard oxygen cylinders and medicines as the second wave of the coronavirus batters the Indian healthcare system, Bar and Bench reported.
“Hoarding leads to artificial scarcity to an extent which may not be there,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said. “We appeal to the good sense of people to not resort to black marketing and hoarding of oxygen cylinders or medicines and to make them available to the needy.”
The court noted that while the Centre has allocated 490 metric tonnes of oxygen supply per day to Delhi, the national Capital has not received the complete quantity even once. The prime reason for this is that the oxygen plants are situated in far-off places such as West Bengal and Odisha.
The High Court is hearing several matters related to the handling of the pandemic in the national Capital, and different benches have held marathon hearings, according to PTI. Another bench of the court on Wednesday said that it appeared as if the central government wanted patients to die as it noted the new protocol on using anti-viral drug remdesivir to treat coronavirus patients.
The court led by Sanghi also appointed senior advocate Raj Shekhar Rao as amicus curiae to help the court in matters related to the pandemic, including the allocation of oxygen. The court asked Rao to suggest ways to make the best use of tankers in minimal time.
The court also asked the Arvind Kejriwal government to place before it a report on the number of RT-PCR tests conducted in the last seven days and asked for why there has been a reduction in the number of tests.
The judges then urged the government to examine suggestions that have sought to make use of the Armed forces to ease the situation. Advocate Krishnan Venugopal suggested that the forces could set up field hospitals, and that medical officers who volunteer their services could be contacted through a centralised system to help patients.
Venugopal said that the oxygen crisis was the reaction to a larger problem in Delhi. “Big problem is that it has become the law of the jungle,” he told the court, according to Bar and Bench. “People start to either bribe or somebody pulled out a gun. There is no single point where a person can call you ask what to do next.”
He said it was important for the Delhi government to form a system of triage like Kerala or Tamil Nadu.
Delhi has “not followed up the system of triage, home isolation, oxygen bed or ICU,” he said, adding that a large number of beds were “being cornered by people who don’t need it”.
The defence forces would be able to offer their services and man beds, he added.
Venugopal also added: “Today huge number of ambulances are used to transport bodies. They are locked up outside crematoriums. Crematoriums should be set up in designated public grounds and DTC buses be converted to carry bodies to crematoriums.”
The court then asked the government to consider these suggestions.
Another bench of the High Court, led by Justice Prathiba M Singh, told insurance companies to stop taking six to seven hours to approve bills for Covid patients, thereby delaying discharges and admissions. The court warned that contempt action would be taken against those who take too long to process claims.
India on Thursday created yet another grim record with 3,79,257 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections since the pandemic broke out in January 2020 to 1,83,76,524. India also recorded 3,645 deaths in a day for the first time, taking the toll to 2,04,832. The number of active cases has crossed the 30-lakh mark.
As lakhs of new coronavirus cases emerge every day, India is reeling under an acute shortage of oxygen, beds and timely medical care across several states. Social media is awash with desperate calls for ambulances, ICU beds and medicines. Even hospitals are taking to Twitter or going to court to plead with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and warning that they will need to stop admissions of new patients.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday said that filing these “critical gaps” in essential healthcare services should be India’s first priority as it tackles the second wave.