State directed to ramp up COVID-19 tests to 50k a day

HC unhappy with way government was presenting reports regarding the pandemic to the court

Expressing concern over the ‘low number of COVID-19 diagnostic tests’ being conducted in the State, Telangana High Court on Thursday directed the State government to step up the tests from the average of 40,000 to 50,000 a day.

Gradually, the number of tests should be taken up to one lakh a day, a bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy said. Hearing a batch of PIL pleas on COVID-19 pandemic, the bench also instructed the government to introduce tests, which were newly accepted by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for diagnosing coronavirus, in the State.

The kits to conduct RT-PCR test should be made available in all district headquarters, the bench said. It directed the government to furnish a report on the action initiated against private hospitals charging excessive amounts for treating COVID-19 patients. Referring to Lockdown.4 relaxations, the court said the possibility of crowds gathering at marriages or other functions cannot be ruled out. Hence, the government should ensure, by deploying police personnel at such places, that people maintained social distance and wore masks.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the less number of COVID-19 confirmation tests in the State vis-a-vis other States, the bench said more tests were being held two to three days ahead of the HC hearing the PIL pleas connected to coronavirus to create an impression of ‘more tests’. Reports on COVID-19 matters were being presented to the court only 15 minutes in advance making it difficult for the court to assess the actions taken by government.

The bench observed that failure of the government to present the State Disaster Management Plan to the court despite repeated direction by the latter suggested that it did not have any such plan. While Maharashtra and Karnataka States were conducting one lakh tests a day on an average, Telangana was boasting of 40,000 tests a day. Citing media reports, the bench said that second wave of coronavirus was reported in some countries and even in the country’s capital of Delhi. While Delhi government was mooting the proposal of second lock-down, the Telangana government appeared to be retreating from the battle against coronavirus, the bench remarked.

The bench said people were seen gathering at eateries and hotels without wearing masks and not maintaining social distance. It sought to know what action was taken against food-joints not adhering to COVID-19 restrictions. Public Health Director in-charge Srinivas told the bench that action was initiated against such persons. It directed the government to file a detailed report on COVID-19 by November 24. The pleas were posted to November 26 for next hearing.

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