Source: Bloomberg Quint.

SC wants answers from Centre about oxygen supplies, vaccinations and health infrastructure

THE Supreme Court Tuesday directed the Central Government to apprise the court of on a range of Covid-related measures from oxygen supply, vaccinations to medical infrastructure.

A bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud asked the Centre to place the following information before the Court with regard to the supply of oxygen

  • The projected demand for oxygen in the country at the present point of time and in the foreseeable future;
  • The steps taken and proposed to augment the availability of oxygen, meeting both the current and projected requirements;
  • The monitoring mechanism for ensuring the supply of oxygen, particularly to critically affected States and Union Territories as well as the other areas;
  • The basis on which allocation of oxygen is being made from the central pool; and
  • The methodology adopted for ensuring that the requirements of the States are communicated to the Central Government on a daily basis so as to ensure that the availability of oxygen is commensurate with the need of each State or, as the case may be, Union Territory.

The bench, which also had Justices L Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat, also sought clarifications on the government’s plan with regard to vaccinations. It asked the Centre to clarify-

  • the projected requirement of vaccines as a result of the enhancement of coverage;
  • the modalities proposed for ensuring that the deficit in the availability of vaccines is met;
  •  steps proposed for enhancement of vaccine availability by sourcing stocks from within and outside the country;
  • modalities for administering the vaccines to meet the requirements of those in the older age group (forty five and above) who have already received the first dose;
  • modalities fixed for administering the vaccine to meet the additional demand of the 18-45 population;
  • how the supplies of vaccines will be allocated between various states if each state is to negotiate with vaccine producers; and
  • steps taken and proposed for ensuring the procurement of other vaccines apart from Covishield and Covaxin and the time frame for implementation; and
  • The basis and rationale which has been adopted by the Union government in regard to the pricing of vaccines.

“The government shall explain the rationale for differential pricing in regard to vaccines sourced by the Union government on one hand and the states on the other hand when both sources lead to the distribution of vaccines to citizens”, the court said.

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The court was also of the view that in order to allay the concerns of citizens, it was necessary that a panel of medical experts be nominated by the Central government to disseminate authentic information on all aspects including in regard to the steps which have to be taken for combating the pandemic.

“The Union of India may consider formulating modalities for ensuring due communication of advisories on a daily basis by the panel of nominated experts. This model may be replicated at the level of each state. This will ensure the dissemination of authentic information”, the court said.

It asked the Centre to consider framing a policy specifying the standards and norms to be observed for admitting patients to hospitals and covid centres and the modalities for admission.

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The court also asked the Centre to inform it of the steps taken to ensure due availability of essential drugs, including Remdesivir and Favipiravir among other prescribed drugs and the modalities which have been set up for controlling prices of essential drugs, for preventing hoarding and for ensuring proper communication of the requirements at the level of each District by the District health authorities.

Click here to read the order