‘Won’t let you rest on your feet’: HC to Delhi govt over Covid-19 testing

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to close the hearing on a plea seeking rapid Covid-19 testing and declaration of results in 48 hours, saying that its jurisdiction “to continuously monitor the situation even in a disposed of petition cannot be curtailed by taking to such technicalities”.

“The resistance of the Delhi Government to this Court monitoring the progress made in ramping up the testing, is incomprehensible when admittedly, this is not an adversarial litigation and it is purely in the interest of the citizens of Delhi that all government departments and agencies act in tandem and work collectively to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic for larger public good,” said a division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad.

The observations were passed after advocate Satyakam, appearing for the Delhi government, raised technical objections over the maintainability of the said application.

Satyakam said that when the main petition in the present matter was disposed of earlier by taking note of the submissions made by him regarding the measures taken by the Delhi government to expedite receipt of reports for testing of Covid-19 infection, no further orders ought to be passed merely on the strength of a miscellaneous application moved thereafter by an intervener.

Responding to the objections being raised by the counsel, the bench said: “We therefore decline to close the matter as requested. We will not let you rest on your feet…. Why is the Delhi government getting cold feet.”

During the course of hearing, an ICMR official told the bench that it is satisfied with the extent of testing being done by the Delhi government by adopting RT-PCR and RAT testing.

“Simply because 60 per cent of the reports of RAT tests are negative, is not reason enough for a person to undergo RT-PCR testing unless and until after being declared as negative in the RAT test, the said person has symptoms that are visible to the attending doctor, for undergoing RT-PCR testing,” he submitted.

He also clarified that the recommendation for undergoing the RAT test is for containment zones, hotspots and health care settings in certain circumstances. For other areas, the guidelines of the ICMR apply for undertaking the RT-PCR test, as per the particular groups identified in the advisory, he told the court.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government, in its latest status report, stated that an expert panel comprising of members of the Niti Aayog, the AIIMS, the ICMR and the NCDC have suggested a roadmap for strengthening of the Covid-19 survey and the government has revised its response plan, reviewed the containment zones and factored in the cluster analysis undertaken by the state Department of Health and Family Welfare.

“For the purpose of redesigning the containment zones, technical support was taken from the NCDC and the quantum of testing efforts was increased substantially both, in terms of RAT and RT-PCR,” the status report said.

It was further submitted that RAT tests were ramped up from 18,760 between June 11-20 to 81,194 from June 21-30. Similarly, as against 66,394 RT-PCR tests conducted between June 11-20, 74,227 RT-PCR tests were conducted from June 21-30.

While listing the matter for further hearing on August 19, the court has now asked the Delhi government to file a fresh status report after obtaining necessary clarifications from the ICMR with regard to the manner of implementation of its advisories for deploying the RAT tests and the RT-PCR tests in different part of Delhi.

Advocate Rakesh Malhotra, through his petition, had raised a grievance that the Delhi government is not taking expeditious steps to furnish reports after conducting tests for Covid-19 on suspected people, within a reasonable time of 48 hours or even earlier and as a result of the delay, contact tracing is also getting delayed and the infection is multiplying rapidly in Delhi.