BARRED: From Monday, May 10 no outsiders may come to Goa by plane, train or road without a covid negative certificate.
By Rajan Narayan
The Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court sees no justification in Goa not insisting on a covid-19 negative certificate from those entering Goa. The bench has also asked the government to keep people informed on a real time basis of the availability of hospital beds, oxygen availability, ventilators and oxymeters in home kits for patients choosing to self-isolate. It has directed the government to provide protection to the healthcare staff and warned that there would be zero tolerance to violence against hospital staff. It has demanded the setting up of a task force with a “war control room” for medical assistance and supply of medicines…
THE Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court, comprising justices M S Sonak and M S Jawalkar, have directed the government of Goa to ensure that no persons are permitted entry into the state from May 10 onwards without a covid-negative certificate.
Indeed, the bench remarked that Goa should have imposed this minimum restriction on its own along ago. The bench was hearing a group of public interest petitions on various aspects of the management of covid-19 by the state government.
However, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant insisted that if the State starts asking every person entering Goa for a covid-negative certificate, then they would have to ask this also from even truck drivers who bring in milk, vegetable and chicken “if we ask them for certificates, they will be unable to produce them…we need to give this a thought.” Earlier, Advocate General Devidas Pangam had told the court that Goa relied on neighbouring Karnataka for most food essentials and the insistence on a covid- negative certificate would impact supplies.
Sawant claimed that the Central government does not support sealing the borders of any state. Referring to those entering Goa by train and air, the HC said “is it too much to suggest that all such travellers are involved in supplying essential services or goods.” Therefore, the State government will have to insist on a covid-negative certificate before such persons enter Goa. The bench said the interim direction will be effective from May 10 to enable the State administration to give publicity to the decision.
OUT OF CONTROL
WITH the situation “spiralling out of control,” the court has also sought to know from the government whether there is any thought process on the issue of lockdown. It would appear that unlike CM Pramod Sawant, the court is clearly in favour of a lockdown. The court also sought an affidavit from the government regarding oxygen requirements and stocks of essential medicines. The court asked the government to bring in transparency on the availability of medical facilities by putting the information in the public domain on a real time basis. It pointed out that this would avoid “unnecessary anxiety” and “rumour mongering.” The court also sought information about the steps taken to increase stocks of essential medicines available in the State.
The court directed the government to provide adequate protection to healthcare professionals in hospitals. Regarding their security the court said “we are quite mindful of the fact that patients and their relatives are stressed out and even desperate. Nevertheless a message must go out loud and clear that there will be zero tolerance for any form of physical or verbal violence against healthcare professionals. Such violence is simply not acceptable and must be dealt with firmly.”
CHIEF MINISTER Pramod Sawant is still reluctant to close the borders as he does not want to lose revenue from gambling and tourism. Commenting on the HC order, the CM observed “It is ok if it is a tourist for whom you are asking for covid-negative certificate. What about those who come by train (migrant labour). What do we do when the person does not have a covid-negative certificate. The state will again have to do their tests free of charge and provide them food as well. Already there is a strain on the entire administration.”
The HC, however, is very firm that nobody should be permitted to enter Goa without covid-negative certificate. The court has also directed the State to provide proper testing facilities and supply the results at the earliest. The court was reacting to the observation by lawyers that delay in test reports was a major contributor to covid deaths. Very often the report comes only after seven or ten days by which time the infection has already turned serious. According to senior doctors the new variant directly attacks the lungs and young people get pneumonia within 48 hours. A number of the people who are brought to the hospital for admission, are brought dead or die within 24 hours of admission, as they have either delayed testing or got their results late.
THE HC has asked the government to place on record the hospital admission policy. This is in response to the charge that VIPs are given preference while ordinary patients are even permitted to die in their cars waiting for a hospital bed. The court has sought the status of the vaccination drive in the state. It was pointed out that most of the fatalities were of people who had not taken the vaccine though they were eligible. The court has asked the government to set up special facilities for slum dwellers, disabled persons and senior citizens to access the vaccination centres. It has sought a specific response on the status of the vaccination drive for the 18-45 age group.
The Goa Bench has directed the State to file an affidavit on home collection of samples for testing. It has also asked the government to set up a helpline and make information available on real time on the availability of beds, vaccines and other consumer goods like oxymeters in the home kits of patients who choose self-isolation. The daily bulletin shows an extra 2,000 people opt for home isolation every day. This is more than admissions to hospitals which is only around 250 per day.
The Goa Bench has asked the government to file an affidavit on the status of the proposal for a task force, a war control room for medical assistance and medicines supply. The court has asked for details on about 2,000 ventilators to be procured by the State, infrastructure available, and time schedules for improving the infrastructure, such as the availability of oxygen.
The petition was filed by the South Goa Advocates Association with regard to difficulties faced in terms of oxygen supply, medical infrastructure, supply of essential medicines, testing facilities and vaccination drives. The petition also sought to know the measures adopted by the government to prevent the spread of the epidemic, including banning mass gatherings, social distancing and entry of people into the State and imposing complete lockdown. The petition sought a statement from the government regarding the shortage of oxygen and keep the public informed to prevent unnecessary anxiety. The case is supposed to come up for hearing on Tuesday, May 11.
The petitioners Armando Gonsalves & Roshan Mathais were represented by Akash Rebello and Mr. Rui Gomes Pereira.