'Sufferings and miseries of citizens during COVID not taken lightly': Centre to SC

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that sufferings and miseries of the citizens during this second surge of COVID-19 “cannot be taken lightly” and “is not taken lightly” and it is taking urgent, concrete and comprehensive steps to mitigate the problems and loss of life.

The government said it is making all out efforts on war footing to deal with the pandemic despite its unprecedented magnitude.

The Centre said it is giving details of the steps taken to check the fresh wave of pandemic and also to deal with “completely false narrative” that the nation from the onset of coronavirus to its peak and second surge did nothing and was caught unaware.

In a 200-page affidavit, the Centre said that it has taken all steps possible within the inevitable constraints resulting from the sheer magnitude of the unfortunate surge of the pandemic.

“The following facts will satisfy this Court that right from the inception till present critical times, the Central Government has taken various steps in the most professional manner to equip the nation with everything required in case of continuance/surge in the pandemic,” the affidavit said.

It said that “the sufferings and miseries of the citizens during this second surge cannot be taken lightly and is not taken lightly and the Central Government is making all out efforts on war footing to deal with it despite its unprecedented magnitude”.

The Centre said that due to increased demand of Remdesivir injections and its shortages reported from certain parts of the country, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has immediately approved 31 additional manufacturing sites on April 12, 2021 in addition to 22 manufacturing sites of seven manufacturers to enable them to enhance their manufacturing capacity.

“It is stated that presently, there are total 53 manufacturing sites of the said seven manufacturers of Remdesivir approved by CDSCO which are having a total production capacity sufficiently expandable to around 90 lakh vials/units of Remdesivir injectable formulations per month,” it said.

The Centre further said that Remdesivir is listed as “investigational therapy” in the National Clinical Management Protocol: COVID-19 which is prepared by the team of eminent experts of the various fields.

“It is understood that out of the total active COVID cases, around 80 per cent are mild cases which do not require either oxygen or hospitalization and remaining 20 per cent are the “moderate non-ICU bed cases” and “severe ICU cases” requiring oxygen”, it said, adding that it is only “moderate to severe cases” in which administration of Remdesivir can to be considered that too depending upon the clinical judgment of the treating doctor.

The affidavit said that the Central Government has launched its Phase-III of the National Vaccine Strategy which aims at liberalised vaccine administration with a view to scaling up of vaccine coverage from May 1 under which Citizens above the age of 18 would be eligible for getting vaccinated.

It informed the court that vaccine manufacturers would supply 50 per cent of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the central government and would be free to supply the remaining 50 per cent doses to State Governments and in the open market.

“At present there are two vaccine manufacturers in India, namely Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech who are supplying COVID vaccines to the Government of India. Serum Institute of India has committed to supply 11 Crore doses and Bharat Biotech has committed to supply 5.5 Crore doses to Government of India over a period of 3 months, starting from May 2021,” it said.

The government said that the manufacturers would transparently make an advance declaration of the price for 50 per cent supply that would be available to State governments and in open market, before May 1, 2021.

“Private Hospitals would have to procure their supplies of COVID-19 vaccine exclusively from the 50 per cent supply earmarked for other than the Central Government channel. Private Vaccination providers shall transparently declare the vaccination price as fixed by it. The eligibility through this channel would be opened for all adults, i.e. everyone above the age of 18,” it said.

The government said that 34,228 ventilators were granted to the States by the Centre last year and during the last six months the exercise of providing ventilators to the States has continued as an on-going process.

The government said that the States have started sending their requirement for ventilators after April 1, 2021 and since then, 9,808 ventilators have been allocated to the states of which 3835 have already been dispatched.

The affidavit said that the exercise of transporting medical oxygen is being undertaken on a war footing and no stone is left unturned to ensure quickest possible transit.

“The Government of India is also using defence aircrafts for carrying empty tankers to the supply point as it is technically not possible to bring in oxygen filled tankers through air in an aircraft” it said.

The government, however, said that this process is going on at a national level and is being undertaken at an international level and any deviation by any judicial order based upon fact, situation and considerations existing in one state will completely frustrate the whole exercise and shall have a cascading effect.