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The Court emphasised that it was not against the arrival of the people. It clarified, "Our only concern is that in these difficult times there must be a proper screening at the borders."
The Uttarakhand High Court today issued a slew of directions to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spread as large numbers of migrants return from other states to Uttarakhand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order was passed by a Division Bench comprising of Justices Ravindra Maithani and Sudhanshu Dhulia. The directions issued to the State government include the following:
At each border point, the State Government shall make every possible effort to establish and make functional quarantine centers.
In these quarantine centers, all such returnees who are coming from red zones shall be kept for a period of one week.
Out of these quarantined persons, those who have necessary symptoms, as per the guidelines of ICMR, shall be tested for RT-PCR.
Although rapid antibody test has not been approved by ICMR for diagnostic purposes, since the result of this test is available in much less time, such tests can be used for surveillance purposes alone.
Procure rapid test kits immediately and ensure that testing is done by this method, on an experiment basis at the border points.
This apart, the Court was also informed that ICMR had approved a testing kit, called “Elisa” Kit, under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, which could be made available to the State Government.
The Court was further told that such tests have already been put to use in Uttarakhand's Pauri Garhwal district. The Court directed that the same be done in other districts as well.
The above directions were passed by the Division bench noting that, at present, the efforts made by the State Authorities, particularly at the borders of Uttarakhand, are not sufficient to check the return of persons, who are coming more rapidly in ever-increasing numbers.
"Admittedly the present tests which are being done on the borders, are only limited to thermal screening and general clinical examination. This is admitted by the State Authorities as well that this is not a sufficient measure and we can do better", the Court observed.
Further, the Court expressed concern that there was a high chance that many of migrants returning from other states could be COVID-19 positive. As noted in the order,
"We say this as admittedly COVID-19 positive cases have been detected in far flung places like “Betal Ghat” in Nainital, Uttarkashi, Tehri, Almora and many other interior hill districts. All this has happened after opening up after the lockdown. This situation is absolutely alarming."
The Court emphasised that it was not against the arrival of the people and that it was their fundamental right to come back to their home state. It clarified, "Our only concern is that in these difficult times there must be a proper screening at the borders."
The Court passed the directions while hearing a PIL on the plight of the migrants and other needy people amid lockdown. Advocate Shiv Bhatt appeared for the petitioners and Advocate General SN Babulkar appeared for the State.
The matter has been next posted for hearing on June 2, by which time a progress report is expected to be filed by the State.