SC seeks detailed report on govt steps against Covid-19

Updated 15 Apr 2020

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CJP Gulzar Ahmed tests negative for coronavirus. — AFP/File
CJP Gulzar Ahmed tests negative for coronavirus. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has directed the federal government to furnish a comprehensive report on decisions taken at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran recently to deal with the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The directives were issued by the Supreme Court through a detailed order during suo motu proceedings held on Monday about measures taken to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan had earlier informed a five-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed that the meeting was expected to outline a uniform policy applicable to all territories of Pakistan and that no part of the country would be treated differently.

In its order, the apex court has expressed the confidence that the federal and provincial governments would ensure all necessary needs of doctors and paramedics in such an emergency situation as they are at the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

CJP Gulzar Ahmed tests negative for coronavirus

The court noted that doctors and paramedics were performing duties beyond their call of duty. It expressed concern over reports that at many places they were not even being provided with food. “This is a sensitive issue which should immediately be addressed by all the governments,” the court order said.

Similarly, the order said, the condition of sanitary staff was not good and the court had been informed that they were exposed to all sorts of diseases in hospitals. But no effective care was being provided to them and a request had been made that they should be provided with the requisite protection, the order added.

The court directed the government to ensure that members of sanitary staff in hospitals had proper and secure uniforms so that they could perform their duty without any fear.

The court noted that though most of the items of PPE (personal protective equipment) — such as test kits and ventilators — were imported, efforts were being made to manufacture these items locally in a large quantity.

Referring to Sindh, the order said Advocate General for Sindh Salman Talibuddin had informed the court that steps were being taken to stop the spread of the virus. The court noted that the provincial government had issued an executive order sealing 11 union councils (UCs) in Karachi.

When asked to give justification for the sealing of UCs, the Sindh advocate general stated that the provincial government had found some cases of coronavirus in these UCs, but nothing concrete had so far been placed before the court about those cases.

According to the order, the court had asked for a programme to be implemented in these 11 UCs, like how people would be reached for medical testing and screening, and, if a case was found, what steps would be taken for the affected person and other people who were in close contact with him/her and how people in these areas would receive necessary items, such as food.

The Sindh advocate general, the order says, had stated that grocery shops in these 11 UCs were allowed to remain open. But, the order added, no other programme had been drawn by the provincial government.

The order said that the apex court had told the Sindh advocate general that there was no documentation available to this court of the purchase of ration worth Rs8 billion by the Sindh government for its distribution among poor people.

“This is a very sorry state of affairs in Sindh,” the court said, asking the provincial government to submit a comprehensive report on its progress.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Tuesday announced that CJP Gulzar Ahmed and members of his family tested negative for coronavirus. They underwent tests for the deadly virus after one of the employees of the court tested positive for Covid-19.

“Covid-19 tests of Hon’ble Chief Justice of Pakistan Mr Justice Gulzar Ahmed, his family members and Secretary to Chief Justice were conducted, which all are negative, Alhamdulillah,” said an announcement issued by the Supreme Court.

In addition to the CJP, tests of some other judges and staff members have also been conducted.

The court announcement was made amidst speculations as the CJP did not preside over cases listed before the Bench No.1 at the Courtroom No. 1. All the cases were delisted and the CJP spent his time at his residence.

The announcement said that one of the employees of the Supreme Court, Naib Qasid Ahsan, had developed some symptoms of Covid-19 and he was quarantined. His Covid-19 test was conducted, but the result was doubtful, the announcement said, adding that his second test was conducted which was diagnosed as positive.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2020