The second wave of COVID-19 pandemic is like a tsunami and as per expert reports the worst of it is yet to come as the peak is likely to happen in mid-May, the Delhi High Court observed on Saturday.
A Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, therefore, asked the Central and Delhi governments about the level or preparedness for the same.
“Other aspect is, it was in papers. According to IIT, Delhi, peak will come in mid-May… it’s a tsunami. How are we trying to build the capacity.. How are we preparing as on date to deal with mid-May” the Court demanded.
“What are the projections? We know this disease has low mortality…some will eventually die. What is not good that where people who could be saved, we are losing those. It is our responsibility to see that those who can be saved are brought back from death,” it added.
The Court asked both Central and Delhi governments to look into augmentation of resources i.e. beds, medicines, doctors, paramedcis etc in view of experts claiming that peak of the present wave was yet to be reached.
Solictor General Tushar Mehta said that government was already conscious of the need.
He informed the Court that apart from increasing the beds, as much as 50k MT oxygen was being imported and wherever possible, oxygen production was being tapped.
The Bench was hearing another set of petitions by certain hospitals in the national capital highlight lack of Oxygen for COVID-19 patients and seeking urgent directions to ensure that lives are not lost.
Two Maharaja Agrasen Hospitals, Batra Hospital, Saroj Super Speciality Hospital and Jaipur Golden Hospital made urgent requests for supply of oxygen to them.
“We had five minutes of Oxygen supply left. We had two hours of supply when the hearing began. This is an SOS call,” counsel for one of the hospitals said during the hearing.
During one of the earlier hearings in similar petitions, the Central government had assured that Delhi would get 480 metric tonnes (MT) of Oxygen.
However, it was pointed out that due to the surge in demand, transportation has become a problem since enough cryogenic tankers are not available.
There was considerable disagreements regarding this between Central government law officer, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, and Delhi government counsel, Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra.
The Court after a lengthy hearing passed directions to ensure that tanks are available for transportation.
The problems that Delhi continues to face arise primarily on account of the fact that the supply of oxygen even at the allocated rate is not taking place, the Court noted.
The Court observed that while the tankers had reached the plant in Durgapur and were ready to be transported through Railways, for Rourkela and Kalinga Nagar, Delhi government had not been able to arrange tanker.
While Mehra stated, and the Court agreed, that Delhi was not an industrial State which would have access to such tankers unlike other States, SG Mehta stated that a “sub-committee”/”sub-group” on the issue of transportation had already been formed by the Central government to provide assistance in such a situation.
The Court was informed by the Central government that there was no shortage of oxygen in the country as the Eastern region had the availability of over 15k MT.
While clarifying that the Delhi government should also make an all-out efforts for procuring cryogenic tankers, the Court recorded that the Central government would look into the issue so that arrangement were made for transportation of liquid oxygen in coordination with GNCTD
We expect officers of both governments to coordinate in this regard, the Court added.
“As a responsible government, the responsibility falls on you also.”, the Court to Delhi government.
Further, the Court also directed all oxygen suppliers and re-filling centres to provide complete details of their services to the Delhi Nodal office.
With regards the urgent plea made by the four hospitals, the Court ordered that their request shall be considered by the Delhi government as soon as the supplies arrive.
The Court stated,
“We are not in the position to direct (supply of oxygen to particular hospitals)… We are trying to do what we can. It’s not that Delhi government has oxygen. We are also concerned about the lives.”
In case if any security arrangements are required, Delhi police shall provide the same to the hospitals facing oxygen shortage, the Court nonetheless added.
“We know how people react (when they lose their loved ones)… Let’s not have a law and order situation,” the Court said.
The matter would be heard next on April 26.