Kohima: The Gauhati High Court’s Kohima Bench has asked the Nagaland government to take up measures of designating isolation centres, ramp-up testing facilities, make all COVID-19 tests free and take vaccination on a war footing.

Justice Songkhupchung Serto and Justice S Hukato Swu of Gauhati High Court (GHC) Kohima Bench issued the suo moto directive on May 24 after hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and asked the state government to comply with its directives while listing the matter for hearing in two weeks time.

The High Court noted that when the pandemic struck Nagaland last year the state government set up quarantine centres for isolation of those who were found to be covid positive while in the villages, the villagers on their own had also set up such centres but this time, there is the absence of these facilities.

Instead, home isolation for those who are infected with covid has been by and large put to practice, they remarked.

However, taking into account the economic status of the people, the court opined that before directing a person to stay under home isolation, the surveillance teams constituted by the government should first verify whether the family has sufficient rooms and other facilities in the house where the infected person can be isolated, and if only such facilities are found, the person should be directed to stay under home isolation.

In case the surveillance team finds that such families have no such facilities for home quarantine, the state government should designate a place or places for keeping such persons in isolation, it said.

The High Court bench also asked the state government to explore possibilities of involving village councils/churches and other civil society organisations and authorities concerned of the wards (in the case of towns) to set up such facilities.

The government should provide all that is necessary for such exercises, it said.

Regarding collection of fees for testing of persons for COVID-19, the court said the counsel appearing for Department of Health and Family Welfare, N Mozhui clarified that fees are taken only from persons who come voluntarily on their own for testing. He also submitted that random testing is going on everywhere and people who are tested in such exercises are not charged any fees.

Expressing that in the fight with the pandemic it has been everyone’s opinion that testing is very important, the court said the earlier the infected persons are identified through testing further spread of the virus by such persons can be prevented, it said.

In this, the court viewed that fees should not be charged even from persons who come on their own for testing.

Agreeing that the number of testing in a day is still less than desired in the state, the high court bench said testing facilities should be increased and testing should be ramped-up.

Accordingly, the court directed the Health and Family Welfare Department and the state government to increase testing facilities and place them even at the level of PHCs and CHCs.

“We are aware that RT-PCR testing facilities are available only at 3 places i.e. at Dimapur, Kohima and Tuensang. The state may explore the feasibility of establishing such facilities even at other strategic places.

However, for the PHCs and CHCs facilities of testing by True Nat or Rapid Antigen Test may serve the purpose,” the court said.

On the COVID-19 vaccination, the court urged that the vaccine be made available at the earliest and vaccination drive also be done on war footing so that people of the state can be vaccinated at the earliest.

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For the aged and physically challenged persons, the court viewed that the state government should make special arrangements to reach out to them with the vaccine.

Regarding manpower availability, the court directed the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) of the respective district to submit a report each on the manpower availability at PHCs and CHCs and district hospitals to get the clear picture about the availability of manpower at the ground level.

Also maintaining that it has also been brought to the notice of the court that charges for burials have been exorbitantly high for those who died due to covid infection, the court said “since we are in a war like situation, we would expect that the government will take the burden at least for those who cannot afford”.

The high court also urged the government to take appropriate action so that burial charges are not unreasonably high.

Listing the matter for hearing again on June 10, the Court, in view of the nature and scope of the PIL also viewed that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare should be made a party.

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