NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to rectify the oxygen issue of Delhi hospitals within two days, on or before the midnight of May 3.
In an order, released late on Sunday night, the apex court ordered the Centre, in collaboration with other states, prepare a buffer stock of oxygen for emergency purposes and decentralise the location of emergency stocks. “Emergency stocks shall be created within next four days and is to be replenished on a day to day basis, in addition to existing allocation of oxygen supply to States,” the SC said in its order passed on suo motu case initiated by it on issues related to oxygen supply etc in relation to Covid.
The apex court also ordered that the Centre shall, within two weeks, formulate a national policy on admissions to hospitals which shall be followed by all state governments. It said that central and state governments shall notify all chief secretaries/DGP/CP that any clampdown on information on social media or harassment caused to individuals seeking/delivering help on any platform will attract a coercive exercise of jurisdiction by this court.
Till the formulation of such a national policy by the central government, no patient shall be denied hospitalisation or essential drugs in any state/UT for lack of local residential proof of that state/UT or even in the absence of identity proof, the court ordered.
It also directed the Centre shall revisit its initiatives and protocols, including on availability of oxygen, availability and pricing of vaccines, availability of essential drugs at affordable prices and respond on all other issues highlighted in this order before the next date of hearing.
“We would seriously urge the central and state governments to consider imposing a ban on mass gatherings and super spreader events. They may also consider imposing a lockdown to curb the virus in the second wave in the interest of public welfare,” the apex court said. “Having said that, we are cognisant of socio-economic impact of a lockdown, specifically, on the marginalised communities. Thus, in case the measure of a lockdown is imposed, arrangements must be made beforehand to cater to the needs of these communities,” said the court in its order.
It said that in light of the continuing surge of infections in the second wave of the pandemic, the court directed the Centre and state governments to put on record the efforts taken to curb the spread of the virus and the measures that they plan on taking in the near future. The court said the Centre should also consider using healthcare workforce available with the armed forces and paramilitary forces for the purpose of vaccination.
It took notice of the fact that several critical drugs, used to treat Covid-19, such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, are being sold at inflated prices or in fake forms and said that this is a “condemnable attempt to exploit people’s misery and profit from their helplessness”.