The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Modi government to begin preparations to tackle the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The top court underscored the importance of ramping up a buffer stock of medical oxygen to prevent widespread panic among the general public.
The Centre Thursday told the Supreme Court that it has complied with its order and instead of 700 MT oxygen, it ensured a supply of 730 MT to Delhi for treating COVID-19 patients.
The apex court, while staying contempt proceedings initiated by Delhi High Court against central government officials for non-compliance of direction to supply 700 MT of oxygen to Delhi, had sought an answer from the Centre on Thursday morning.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah was informed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that a survey was conducted in 56 major hospitals of the national capital on May 4 and it revealed that they had significant stock of liquid medical oxygen (LMO).
India, on Thursday, reported a daily rise of over 400,000 Covid cases for the second time this month, while a record 3,980 people succumbed to the virus amid a severe shortage of hospital beds and medical oxygen. Delhi in particular has been reeling from the shortage of oxygen.
During a hearing on the supply of oxygen to Delhi, the court said the Centre needs to look at the issue of oxygen supply on a pan-India basis. Justice Chandrachud said there is a need to look at oxygen audit and also reassess the basis for oxygen reallocation, according to ANI.
At present health professionals are in complete fatigue, how you will ensure better health care facilities?, observes Justice Chandrachud What will happen between & Monday? You (Centre) must augment supply, he asks You must give 700 MT oxygen to Delhi, says Justice Chandrachud
— ANI (@ANI) May 6, 2021
The court also warned the Modi government that it will be held responsible if there is an error in policy framing. “Today, you have 1.5 lakh doctors who are waiting for NEET and have completed their courses. If you give them Rs 5000, nobody will come serve. How do you make sure they come and help ? Likewise, 2.5 lakh nurses are trained and are sitting at home. How do we tap into this for dealing with the possibility of a third wave? There is complete fatigue amongst the healthcare professionals. They have been at it since March 2020. We have to create spaces for existing body of health professionals. They are at the end of their tethers.
Calling them Corona Warriors, but they’re humans at the end of the day. Don’t take this in an adversarial stance. When we make these suggestions, the idea is not to tell you that you didn’t think of this,” said Justice Chandrachud.
Justice Chandrachud: We understand that people die despite the best reports of doctors and we also understand there are deaths unrelated to oxygen. We give you that. But, equally oxygen today is a critical component. You cannot deny that.
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) May 6, 2021
The Centre submitted a detailed plan to the court on procurement and supply of Oxygen to various states and union territories, according to ANI. Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta told the court that a significant stock of Oxygen is there in Delhi hospitals at present. States like Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are also demanding more oxygen to cater to their hospital demands, Mehta added.
The Centre told the apex court it has complied with its order and instead of 700 MT oxygen, it ensured a supply of 730 MT to Delhi. However, the Delhi government’s lawyer Rahul Mehra informed the court the city had received only 555 MT oxygen, not 730 MT as claimed by the Centre.
While granting the stay on contempt against the officials, the top court on Wednesday had made clear that it was not stopping the high court from monitoring COVID-19 management related issues.
It had also directed a meeting, even virtually, between officials of the Centre and Delhi government by last evening to discuss various aspects of augmenting the oxygen supply to the national capital.
Supreme Court’s anticipation of third Covid wave comes a day after the government’s Principal Scientific Advisor K Vijay Raghavan cautioned about the same.
As the virus mutates further, a third wave of COVID infection is inevitable and it is necessary to be prepared for new waves, said Raghavan.
With active cases at 3.5 million, the top scientific officer said it was not expected that the second wave would hit the country with such ferocity. “Phase three is inevitable given the higher levels of circulating virus, but it is not clear on what time-scale this phase three will occur. We should be prepared for new waves,” he said.
Raghvan said although vaccines are efficacious against new mutations like the UK one and the double mutant, surveillance and vaccine updates are needed as the virus mutates further.