High Court asks Mamata government to look at need for more COVID testing

Published : April 18, 2020 20:27 IST

Medics attend to a suspected COVID-19 patient at a hospital in Kolkata on April 18. Photo: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI

The Calcutta High Court has directed the State government to look into the need to conduct more more COVID-19 tests. A division bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee, responding to a number of PILs on the State government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, said:

“We are of the view that it is necessary that the official respondents give a deeper look to the requirement of more number of samples being collected and subjected to tests on war-footing.”

The court also directed the State to keep it informed of the progress it was making in the collection and testing of samples. “We think that having regard to the fact that the ICMR testing protocol and WHO guidelines require adherence to effective screening on war-footing, we need to be told by the State as to the acceleration of the rate of sample collection and testing which is being obtained on the aforesaid basis. This has to be reckoned qua all mandatory yardsticks,” said the court.

Pointing out that the primary grievance of the petitioner “appears to be that the State is allegedly not following the guidelines and advisories issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), as regards tackling the menace of COVID-19”, the court said: “We are of the view that WHO and ICMR being expert authorities in the field, their guidelines and advisories are required to be followed by all stakeholders including the State Administration….”

The total number of samples tested in the State as of April 18, according to Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, is 4,630. The total “active” COVID-19 cases in the State is 178, and the total number of people who have “officially” died of coronavirus is 12.

“We have crossed the level of 400 sample testing per day and today also we have tested more than 400 cases. With Malda district hospital getting operational (for testing) by tomorrow, with its capacity of more than 50 tests per day, our number of sample testing will increase,” said Sinha on April 18.

According to him, the State government’s planning and actions have to a large extent been successful in containing the spread of the COVID-19. “Testing has no meaning if it is not backed up by a proper strategy of containment, segregation and isolation. It is not like we are making strategies without taking tests…. To a very large scale, the planning and the steps taken by the State government have been largely successful in containing the outbreak. We have emphasised containment strongly in places in Kolkata, Howrah, Purbo Medinipur and North 24 Parganas,” said Rajiva Sinha.

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