Sikkim High Court: The Division Bench of Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari, CJ. and Bhaskar Raj Pradhan, J., took up a perused affidavit submitted by the State which dealt with four things. It included Covid care facilities in the State, vaccination drive of the State, proposed setting up of Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) and proposed policy to meet the third wave.

With regard to the Covid care facilities, it was submitted that there is one Covid Dedicated Hospital, 2 Dedicated Covid Health Centres and 28 Covid Care Centres in the State. The Court observed that the affidavit was, however, silent on which guideline that has been followed by the State, what was the requirement as per the guidelines and what are the measures taken and facilities provided as per the guidelines including the human resources.

The State submitted that the vaccines are allotted by the Centre in an equitable manner as per the population of the State. The affidavit, however, was silent about any attempt being made by the State to communicate with the Centre to increase the quota of vaccines keeping in mind the unique factors in the Sikkim situation.

In relation to setting up of VRDL was concerned, the affidavit stated that the request of the State for setting up VRDL at district Namchi had been refused although no information was provided as to why it was refused. The Court stated that it becomes more important because of the previous orders passed by this Court, whereby they had implored the Centre as well as the State to act in unison to set up such testing facilities in all the districts of Sikkim.

The Court noted that State respondents had requested for Mobile I-LABS as well as two Mobile Testing Laboratories and that they have approved the proposal of TATA MEDICAL AND DIAGNOSTIC (TATA MD) to establish RTPCR laboratory for the Namchi and Gyalshing District Hospitals, within 6 to 8 weeks.

The Court showed concern about the time sought by the Additional Advocate General to submit a policy to meet the third wave of Covid and about action being sought to be taken by the State Government against a Medical Practitioner for unauthorized RAT testing.

The Court took cognizance of the report in Sikkim Express titled “Covid outbreak in South shelter home” which reported that 25 covid positive cases have been reported from Mangalbarey in South District including 16 from a shelter home there. It is further reported that the infected children and the staff of Mangalbarey shelter home have been shifted to Covid Care Centre at CCCT Chisopani. The report further mentions that recently 21 children and 3 caretakers of a Child Care Institute at Rabongla had tested COVID-19 positive and are presently admitted at the Covid care centre, Kamrang. The report also voices the concern that shelter homes, childcare institutions and other similar institutions cannot totally follow the COVID-19 protocols like social distancing for practical reasons and as such few initial COVID-19 cases quickly infect the other persons staying in institutions and become covid hotspots.

The Court directed the State o immediately take stock of the situation in all shelter homes, childcare institutions, old age homes, destitute homes, observation homes, open shelters, place of safety, special homes and all other such care facilities available in the State, both governmental and non-governmental, to insulate the inmates and staff from the pandemic.[Covid 19 Management, In Re., 2021 SCC OnLine Sikk 88, decided on 07-07-2021]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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