Counting of votes: Madras HC suggests lockdown in TN, Puducherry on May 1-2
The Madras high court has suggested a May 1-2 lockdown to Tamil Nadu and Puducherry governments to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases during vote-counting for the recently held assembly elections.
The court said on Monday that only vehicles required for counting and emergency services could be allowed. “Public health is more important than counting votes. The process may be delayed or even deferred, but public health must not be compromised,” the court said.
The first bench of chief justice Sanjib Banerjee and justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made the observations while hearing a suo motu petition by the court on the status of the availability of oxygen, ventilators, hospital beds, and Remdesivir drug for treating Covid-19, besides vaccine availability.
“If an appropriate announcement in such regard is made well in advance, say by April 28, ordinary citizens may have sufficient notice and may complete the weekend purchases by Friday and abide by the restricted movement norms as was evident in course of the lockdown observed on Sunday, April 25, 2021,” the court said. “As of now, the situation does not appear to be completely out of control, though there are some horror stories in media and some other anecdotes on the social media.”
The state submitted to the court that it had enough supply and that chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi a day ago against oxygen diversion so that oxygen is available for Tamil Nadu even in a worst-case scenario. The court also suggested that vaccine-manufacturing units at Chengalpattu, Coonoor and Ooty could be re-started.
The state informed the court that Remdesivir is being sold at ₹1,400 plus GST per vial and a counter has been opened specifically for this purpose at Kilpauk Medical College. The Centre has allotted 59,000 vials of Remdesivir till April 30 to Tamil Nadu against pending orders of the state totalling 250,000. State health secretary J Radhakrishnan informed the court that only 25% of the Covid-infected may need hospital admission and 15% of them may need oxygen beds.
The court noted that people may panic and hinder functioning at hospitals and healthcare centres as many have expressed serious concerns over black marketing of drugs, on the number of beds being far too few and on the lack of information regarding the availability of beds, drugs and doses of vaccine. Based on the court’s suggestion, the state agreed to widely publicise the do’s and don’ts.
Both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have announced a series of curbs starting Monday, such as closure of places of worship, spas, beauty parlours and salons to check the spread of the virus.
The court will hear the matter next on April 29 unless it has to be taken up earlier on an urgent basis.