The Gujarat High Court pulled up the state government today over the COVID-19 situation in the state and problems being faced by citizens, saying the reality is contrary to what the government claims.
"People now think that they are at God's mercy," a division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav Karia said while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), taken up suo motu (on its own), on the situation in the state.
The High Court also suggested some steps, like capping the number of guests at weddings to 50, instead of 100 at present, limiting the number of people at funerals, ban on all kind of gatherings, limiting the number of employees in offices and designating one person in each society to coordinate with authorities.
Gujarat has been reporting over 5,000 new cases of coronavirus since the last two days.
Advocate General Kamal Trivedi informed the High Court about various steps taken by the Gujarat government, but the bench refused to accept most of the explanations, be it on the availability of beds or Remdesivir- the key anti-viral drug currently in high demand.
"The situation is quite different than what you are claiming. You are saying that everything is alright. But, the reality is contrary to that," the high court said.
There is a "trust deficit" among people, the High Court observed during the hearing held via video conference.
"People are cursing the government and the government is cursing the people. This will not help. We need to break this chain of infection," the court said.
On some media reports claiming there was a shortage of Remdesivir injections and long queues outside a hospital to get it, Mr Trivedi told the court that people who do not need the drug were also trying to buy it as a precautionary measure.
Remdesivir is not required if the patient is under home treatment or is asymptomatic and not critical. The supply is also less from companies, he informed.
"Only seven companies make it. The production is just 1.75 lakh vials per day. We are procuring around 25,000 injections every day for Gujarat," Mr Trivedi said.
However, the High Court asked why the government was controlling the supply of Remdesivir when people were running here and there to get it and even designated hospitals were saying they do not have it.
"The medicine is available, but it is being controlled by the government. Why can't people buy it? Make sure it is available everywhere. There is no shortage of Remdesivir.
Everything is available with you. We want results, not reasons," the court said.
On the issue of COVID-19 tests, it said laboratories are taking days to provide the RT-PCR test results to people.
Earlier, the RT-PCR test results used to come in 8, 10 or 12 hours. It now takes "almost five days", the High Court noted.
"That is for the common man. For someone like you or Mr Devnani (an advocate party to the case) or for us, may be we can speed up, we can jump the line," the court said.
But, for the common man, it takes five to seven days to get the RT-PCR report even today, said the bench.
"(It is happening because) you did not have the infrastructure. You did not increase facilities," the High Court observed when Mr Trivedi said the delay was because of a large number of samples being currently received by labs every day.
The bench also did not accept the state government's claim that enough beds were available for COVID-19 patients.
"I have information that patients are turned away even if beds are available at hospitals. If beds are there, then why are we seeing 40 ambulances with patients waiting outside hospitals?" asked Justice Nath.
In his response, Mr Trivedi said despite all hospitals offering similar treatment, people want to get admitted to some specific hospitals, resulting in a huge rush outside some medical facilities.
The advocate general also expressed apprehensions over the possibility of a lockdown, saying it would increase the miseries of the poor and migrant workers.
The court asked the state government to submit a detailed report by Wednesday and kept the matter further hearing on April 15.
Gujarat reported 5,469 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, its biggest single-day rise since the beginning of the pandemic, which took its caseload to 3,47,495.
The death count due to the virus went up to 4,800 as 54 patients died due to the infection on Sunday, as per the state health department.