The Delhi High Court has pulled up the state government for resisting the monitoring of COVID-19 testing in the state by the courts in a public interest litigation filed by advocate Rakesh Malhotra.
The Delhi government had urged the court to stop the proceedings as the issue had attained finality. The Aam Aadmi Party-led government submitted that, according to them, ‘even on merits, the government had made sincere efforts to bring down the COVID-19 infection in the city’.
However, the bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad felt that the present petition was not adversarial in nature and was filed to serve a public cause. The court refused to close the matter. It stated that the jurisdiction of the High Court to continuously monitor the situation even in case of a disposed petition cannot be curtailed by a technical plea by the Delhi government.
The court has asked the government to file fresh status report and the matter has been posted for August 19.
In its status report, the Delhi government said it had conducted 5,24,481 RT-PCR tests until July 30. The Rapid Antigen Tests were ramped up to 81,194 tests between June 21 to June 31 from 18,760 tests between June 11 and June 20, it said. Similarly, Delhi government had done 74,227 RT-PCR tests between June 21 to June 31 and 66,394 RT-PCR tests between June 11 and June 20, it submitted.
The court noted that on July 16, it had found that the number of RT-PCR tests had reduced drastically, and it had directed both the Delhi government and the ICMR to file their responses. After going their responses, the court observed that almost 50% RT-PCR testing capacity in the capital was not being utilised and the focus primarily was on conducting more RATs though RT-PCR tests are the gold standard for COVID-19 tests.
With this in the background, the court observed that the resistance of the Delhi government to the court monitoring the progress made in ramping up testing is incomprehensible.
ICMR scientist Nivedita Gupta stated that the recommendation for undergoing the RAT is for containment zones and health care situation as specified in the advisory such as in case of symptomatic individuals with history of international travel, all symptomatic healthcare workers, all patients of Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI), all patients who require emergency procedures and asymptomatic direct contacts of a COVID-19 positive patient.
The court wanted to know from the Delhi government that if the mandate of ICMR is that RAT should be done only in containment zones and hotspots, then what was the need to do RAT in other locations in the Capital.