Doctor’s prescription is not mandatory from now for those voluntarily going for RT/PCR test to detect COVID-19 infection in the national capital, the Delhi High Court Tuesday said, while expressing concern over the sharp and alarming increase in the number of cases.
Till now it was mandatory for a person to have a doctor’s prescription or symptoms to get tested for the virus.
A bench of justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said people need to carry Aadhaar card for Delhi address proof and fill a form as prescribed by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for COVID-19 testing.
The ICMR form specifies the category of patient as per the testing guidelines.
The high court noted there was a sharp increase in the number of cases in Delhi and asked private laboratories to allow 2000 COVID-19 tests per day for those who voluntarily wish for it.
As the sanctioned strength of conducting RT/PCR test is 14,000, the remaining 12,000 testing capacity per day is available with the Delhi government, it noted.
RT/PCR, short for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction, is a laboratory technique widely used in the diagnosis of genetic diseases and to measure gene expression in research.
The bench examined that there is a sharp rise in cases of COVID-19 in Delhi between August 31 till date and the figures are rather alarming.
On August 31, the number of cases in Delhi were 1358 and on September 7, it went up to 2077.
Delhi government said it was mulling over the issue of allowing RT/PR tests without prescription and needed one more week to make a decision.
However, the high court said having regard to the sharp increase in the COVID-19 cases, it was of the opinion that the situation does not call for any delay.
Henceforth from now, those who want to voluntarily get themselves tested, they need not obtain a prescription from a doctor. The person concerned will only be mandated to fill the ICMR form and attach Aadhaar card to show the proof of a Delhi residence, the bench said.
It further said the private laboratories should prioritise the results of testing samples sent to them by the Delhi government and thereafter give reports of private persons.
In case Delhi government sends additional samples to the private labs, they shall also be catered without any delay, it said.
Delhi government counsel Satyakam informed the high court that in pursuance to its last order, COVID-19 testing camps have been set up at Inter-State Bus terminals (ISBT) Anand Vihar, Sarai Kale Khan and Kashmiri Gate and Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station and New Delhi Railway Station.
Indian Railways has started operating more trains so testing at stations will also be increased proportionately, he said.
The high court was informed that presently two mobile van facilities are deputed in each district in Delhi for the testing.
The bench directed the Delhi government to ramp up the mobile facilities from two to four on the sites which the state deems appropriate, if possible at prominent metro terminals.
The high court said Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) should advertise about the nearby COVID-19 testing camps at prominent spots near the entry and exit area of the stations.
This should also be uploaded on Delhi government’s website for the convenience of citizens, it said.
As the Delhi government counsel said that the third Sero-survey had commenced in the city on September 1 and concluded on September 7, the high court directed him to place on record the sero survey report along with a fresh status report before the next date of hearing on September 16.
During the hearing, central government standing counsel Anurag Ahluwalia, submitted that social distancing norms are not being followed in district courts and testing camps be organised there.
To this, the bench said camps are being set up at the high court and district courts here on rotation basis and social distancing is something which the legal community has to ensure.
We have opened courts on the saying of lawyers and they should ensure social distancing is maintained. It was the bar associations which were asking for physical hearings. While judges, court staff and support staff are coming to courts, lawyers are desisting from coming to courts and court masters are flooded with requests to put matters through virtual hearing, the bench said.
Ahluwalia and Satyakam submitted that physical hearing be done away with for some more time as the situation is very bad in Delhi and added that lawyers will make a representation on this.
The bench said they can give a representation to this effect to the Delhi High Court Chief Justice who is the final authority to take decisions.
The high court had on August 31 expressed concern over spike in cases of COVID-19 in the city and had directed the Delhi government to re-strategise the testing so that maximum number of cases which are turning out to be asymptomatic can undergo a test at private laboratories to prevent spread of coronavirus infection.
It was hearing a PIL by advocate Rakesh Malhotra seeking increasing the COVID-19 testing numbers in the national capital and getting speedy results.