New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday (November 11) chided the AAP government for relaxing norms for public movement and gatherings even as COVID-19 cases were increasing with no household “left untouched”.
The court said, “There appears to be no control or lack of control from your end,” asking who will monitor whether the public functions would adhere to the limit of 200 and that all attendees will observe social distancing norms and wear masks.
A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramanium Prasad said that when Delhi, as city-state, was “hands down beating” Maharashtra and Kerala in the number of daily new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, what concrete steps have been taken by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government to contain the spread of infection.
The court also sought to know if it had any policy or strategy in place to deal with the “alarming” situation, adding that the daily number of new COVID-19 cases received for November 10 was at 8,593 and “still counting” and the number of containment zones in the city were 4,016.
In the last 2-3 weeks, the court said, when there has been an alarming rise in COVID-19 positive cases in the city, “alarm bells ought to have rung” and the Delhi government should have done something to deal with it.
“No household has been left untouched,” the bench said, while referring to the survey data, and said that as per the latest sero survey report of the government the presence of antibodies was detected in 25 percent of the people tested, indicating that one in four persons has been infected by COVID-19.
It further questioned as to why the Delhi government was relaxing norms in such a situation when other similarly placed states were bringing in restrictions.
It also questioned the rationale behind allowing 200 people to attend public functions instead of reducing the number and permitting public transportation to be fully occupied, saying that these could turn into “super spreaders” of the infection when the city was “already tottering under the weight” of the rising COVID numbers.
The court also sought to know as to why the Delhi government, represented by additional standing counsel Satyakam, has not come out with any legislation to ensure strict adherence to wearing of masks which was being termed as a “vaccine” till the actual vaccine comes.
“Situation has surpassed advisories,” the bench said, adding that if the Delhi government was serious about containing the infection it would have by now introduced sanctions, through legislation, for ensuring wearing of masks by everyone.
It directed the Delhi government to file a status report explaining steps taken by it in the last two weeks, when the COVID-19 cases have risen alarmingly, to contain the spread of the infection and listed the matter for further hearing on November 19.
Hearing the PIL, the bench said that looking at the situation where COVID-19 appears to have entered every household in the national capital it was considering expanding the scope of the PIL to see whether the Delhi government has in place any policy of strategy to deal with the rising numbers.
The HC also questioned the Delhi government’s heavy reliance on Rapid Antigen Testing, instead of the much more accurate RT/PCR tests, when the “situation was as critical as it is now” with even asymptomatic persons testing positive for COVID-19.
“This is not understood,” the bench said referring to the Delhi government’s reliance on RAT instead of RT/PCR and said that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has not prevented any state from restrategizing its testing methods according to the facts and circumstances in that state.
The high court made these observations while hearing a PIL by advocate Rakesh Malhotra. The plea sought to know an increase in the COVID-19 testing numbers in the national capital and getting speedy results.
(With Agency Inputs)