Consider lockdown to curb 2nd wave of covid: SC tells Centre and state govts

News Network
May 3, 2021

New Delhi, May 3: The Supreme Court has asked the Union and state governments to consider imposing a ban on mass gatherings and super-spreader events, as well as bring about a lockdown, to curb the spread of the coronavirus "in the interest of public welfare".

A three-judge bench, presided over by Justice D Y Chandrachud, made the suggestion in light of the continuing surge of infections in the country. The court asked the Centre and state governments to put on record by May 10 the efforts taken to curb the spread of the virus and the measures that they plan on taking in the near future.

The order comes at a time when several state governments have imposed curbs, including curfew on movement of the public, at a local level.

In a detailed order in the suo motu matter, released on Sunday evening, the bench clarified, "We are cognisant of the socio-economic impact of a lockdown, specifically on the marginalised communities. Thus, in case the measure of a lockdown is imposed, arrangements must be made beforehand to cater to the needs of these communities."

The court, which asked the Centre to revisit its policy on procurement of essentials drugs, oxygen and vaccination, also favoured taking care of healthcare professionals -- not just limited to doctors, but also nurses, hospital staff,  ambulance drivers, sanitation workers and crematorium workers for their dedicated efforts in currently tackling the pandemic.

The bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat, noted that the Centre has extended for one year the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package Insurance Scheme of Rs 50 lakh to help about 22 lakh healthcare professionals.

The court directed the central government to inform how many claims are pending under the scheme, and the timeline to settle them.

It noted that till date, only 287 claims have been settled, including from the families of 168 doctors who died after contracting Covid-19 while treating patients.

The court also asked the central government to provide other facilities such as food, rest during intervals, transportation, non-deduction of salary, overtime allowance in both public and private hospitals. A separate helpline for doctors and healthcare professionals was also needed to ensure the nation truly acknowledges their effort and creates incentives for them".

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News Network
April 24,2021

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New Delhi, Apr 24: Straining against his weight, Shayam Narayan's brothers haul him from a rickshaw onto a hospital trolley in India's capital New Delhi.

Only a few minutes pass before they are given the news: he is already dead.

Narayan is one of the latest casualties of a second wave of the coronavirus sweeping across India. His brothers had first brought him to the hospital at 6 am on Friday. But they said staff deemed him well enough to return home.

Ten hours later, his condition deteriorating, they came back. But it was too late to save him.

"The system is broken," his younger brother Raj said.

Narayan, who had five children, died without being admitted to the hospital, or taken to its morgue, meaning his death is unlikely to be officially counted in the city's rising toll.

For the second day running, the country's overnight infection total was higher than any recorded anywhere in the world since the pandemic began last year, at 332,730.

Some 2,263 died, with over 300 of those in Delhi alone -- figures that are almost certainly conservative.

Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, in the northeast of India's capital, is one of many battling oxygen shortages and a lack of space. Patients die on trolleys outside, like Narayan.

The medical superintendent of the hospital was not immediately available for comment.

"Due to an exponential rise in Covid-19 cases in Delhi, all the hospitals are overburdened," a Delhi government spokesman said.

"In GTB Hospital, the patients are arriving via ambulances despite the unavailability of beds. Despite this, the government is trying its best to give all patients treatment at some facility or the other."

Three-day search

The government hospital's 400 Covid intensive care beds are also full, according to official data.

But that does not stop patients gasping for air arriving every few minutes in ambulances and autorickshaws.

Half a dozen wait for hours on trolleys for admission. Others, like Narayan, die before ever being admitted.

"The staff are doing their best but there is not enough oxygen," said Tushar Maurya, whose mother is being treated at the hospital.

After being denied entry to the ICU, a man staggers as he tries to get back into an autorickshaw. Minutes later, he returns unconscious. Loaded onto a stretcher, his arm slams against the ICU door while a guard watches on.

Another man writhes in pain in the back of an ambulance, alone, as it drives forward with the rear doors hanging open. The oxygen cylinder of a third man lying in the sun runs out, and his family rush to change it.

Footage from inside the wards seen by Reuters showed some patients sitting two to a bed and barely enough floor space for others to stand.

"They are like cattle in there," said one man after coming outside.

Despite the lack of beds, many feel they have little choice than to turn up after being denied entry to other overburdened Covid hospitals, pleading with staff to admit their loved ones.

Currently, an online dashboard indicates just 22 ICU beds are available in Delhi out of more than 4,500.

"We have been roaming around for three days searching for a bed," said a man who gave his name as Irfan, whose wife sat immobile on the pavement.

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News Network
May 4,2021

Ayodhya, May 4: The BJP has won just eight out of the 40 zila panchayat seats in Ayodhya, a disappointment for the ruling party in the district on which the Centre and the state government have lavished much attention.

The opposition Samajwadi Party claimed to have made major gains in the panchayat elections held last month, saying candidates it backed won 22 district level seats here.

The Bahujan Samaj Party claimed its candidates won four zila panchayat seats in Ayodhya.

Lakhs of candidates contested the panchayat elections across Uttar Pradesh -- for seats at four levels including the village and the district -- on free symbols allotted by the State Election Commission (SEC).

The parties had, however, extended support to those in the fray and are now claiming that the results have gone in their favour. Counting of the ballot papers began Sunday at over 800 centres across the state.

Contrary to the BJP's claim of overall success in the state, its Ayodhya unit has conceded that it did not do as well as expected.

“The results are disappointing. Despite having sitting BJP MLAs in all constituencies in Ayodhya district, we won only eight out of 40 zila panchayat seats,”  BJP's district spokesperson Diwakar Singh told PTI.

The result has been particularly bad for the BJP in the Sohawal sub-district, where the administration handed over five acres for the construction of a mosque, as mandated by the Supreme Court in its 2019 verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute.

The Samajwadi Party claimed to have won three of the four zila panchayat seats there, leaving one for an independent candidate.

Commenting on the result, SP leader Awadhesh Prasad said people in rural areas are facing a lot of problems under the BJP government.

Among them is the issue of stray cattle destroying crops, which he claimed has driven some farmers to suicide.

The Centre and the Yogi Adityanath government had announced several development projects for Ayodhya since the Supreme Court verdict, which has paved the way for the construction of the Ram temple on the once-disputed site.

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News Network
April 22,2021

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Gurgaon, Apr 22: CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Thursday said his elder son Ashish died of Covid-19 on Thursday morning.

Ashish, who would have turned 35 on June 9, was recovering well at Gurgaon’s Medanta Hospital, people close to the family added, describing his sudden death at 5.30 am after a two-week battle with the disease as a shock.

"It is with great sadness that I have to inform that I lost my elder son, Ashish Yechury to Covid-19 this morning. I want to thank all those who gave us hope and who treated him - doctors, nurses, frontline health workers, sanitation workers and innumerable others who stood by us," Yechury said on Twitter.

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