The Allahabad High Court has directed the Uttar Pradesh government to look into the viability of complete lockdowns in districts where the COVID-19 spread has increased alarmingly.
The court further directed that all public gatherings must be restricted to 50 persons immediately.
"We understand that complete lockdown for weeks together may not be feasible but looking at the current surge of pandemic, we direct the government to look into the viability of complete lockdown in those districts where spread has increased alarmingly," the court stated in its order on Tuesday.
Hearing a PIL related to COVID-19, a division bench, comprising Justice Siddhartha Varma and Justice Ajit Kumar, made it clear that if the court learns of anyone moving on roads without a mask, the court shall take it as an act of contempt on the part of police and will certainly haul up the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Prayagraj, and other concerned districts for the same.
The court also directed the district administrations to religiously comply with the guidelines issued by the state government on 11 April to check the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
The court emphasised that the immunisation programme must be vigorously carried out through vaccination of a large number of people and directed the central government and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to rethink extending the benefit of vaccination to students pursuing higher education and those appearing in board examination of high school and intermediate.
"If the board and other examination conducting bodies are going for offline examination, then the government must explore viability to extend the benefit of vaccination to such students as well," the court added.
Passing the above directives, the court observed, "Night curfew or corona curfew is a very small step. It can curb only night parties and large religious congregations in the coming month of Ramzan and Navratri. What we need to ensure is that there is no unnecessary public movement even during day timings.
“We know that when a river acquires velocity no embankment can stop it and yet efforts are made to restrict it. We need to restrict public movement at least for a week or 10 days to break the chain. If life survives one would regain wealth and improve his economy. After all, every development is for people and if there are no people, there will be no use of any development activity.”
"The situation is so alarming that if it is not handled carefully and cautiously, we may lead to a stage of complete collapse of the public health system," the court added.
Expressing concern over insufficient infrastructure to meet the COVID patients' requirements, the court directed the UP government to acquire open places in the city areas of districts that are the worst-hit in the state, to set up temporary level 1 hospital in a makeshift structure.
"Arrange manpower on contract basis immediately to serve all those who are admitted to temporary level 1 COVID hospitals/centres," the court directed.
"We must give priority to public health over elections and the government is expected to streamline every department of public health and public care in the light of the observations made hereinabove," said the bench while fixing 19 April as the next date of hearing in the case.
The court directed the state government to file an affidavit of an officer not below the rank of secretary in this court by the next date fixed, detailing the measures taken in the light of the observations made hereinabove.
The court also directed that the district magistrate and chief medical officer (CMO), Prayagraj, shall appear through video conferencing on the next date fixed.
Besides, the court directed that a copy of this order be sent to the chief secretary of the UP government, district magistrate and SSP, Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur and Gorakhpur within 24 hours for immediate necessary action at their end.