What you need to know:
- Judges direct officials to make special arrangements for vulnerable people.
- Instruct Modi’s administration to supply oxygen to Delhi hospitals.
The Supreme Court of India has ordered the central and state governments to impose a lockdown to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission.
It has also directed the central government to revisit its initiatives and protocols, including the availability of oxygen, availability and pricing of vaccines, and availability of essential drugs at affordable prices.
“In light of the continuing surge of infections in the second wave of the pandemic, we direct the Central Government and State Governments to put on record the efforts taken to curb the spread of the virus and the measures that they plan on taking in the near future,” said the Supreme Court.
“At the same time, we would seriously urge the Central and State Governments to consider imposing a ban on mass gatherings and super spreader events. They may also consider imposing a lockdown to curb the virus in the second wave in the interest of public welfare.”
The court also said arrangements must be made to protect vulnerable sections during a lock-down.
“We are cognizant of the socio-economic impact of a lockdown, specifically, on the mar-ginalised communities. Thus, in case the measure of a lockdown is imposed, arrangements must be made beforehand to cater to the needs of these communities,” said the Supreme Court order.
In March last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared a nationwide lockdown in a bid to break the chain of transmission. While experts are divided on whether the lockdown could have been planned better, the suddenness of the move led to thousands of migrant workers taking to the streets and walking for days to return to their native homes.
India’s total Covid-19 caseload neared 20 million Monday, in stark contrast to gradual reopenings in Europe and other wealthier parts of the world where rapid vaccination programmes have helped keep new cases down.
In India, cases have soared by around eight million since the end of March, with Mr Modi under growing pressure to take decisive action to reverse the surge.
Doctors in the resort state of Goa on India’s western coast told of how hospitals were overwhelmed by the spike in cases.
“There are critical patients who have to be managed on trolleys and floors and kept on ventilators in criti-cal Covid wards,” the Goa Association of Resident Doctors said in a letter.
Clinics in the capital New Delhi have also sent urgent appeals for help.
“Oxygen is a basic requirement of a hospital and a consistent supply has not been assured. We are con-stantly firefighting,” the head of the Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital Dr Dinesh told the Indian Ex-press daily.
Stung by defeat in a key state-level election and a Supreme Court ruling ordering him to rectify the oxy-gen situation in Delhi, Mr Modi held talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen Monday.
The Indian leader thanked the bloc for “mobilising quick support for India’s fight against the second wave” as international aid has also poured into the country.
Germany and France over the weekend sent medical equipment including oxygen-generating plants.
The contrasting situation in Europe was highlighted Monday when the EU Commission proposed that travellers who are fully vaccinated with EU-approved jabs be able once again to enter the bloc, if they come from countries keeping Covid-19 at bay.
Among those preparing for a post-pandemic future is France, which on Monday relaxed controls on movement and allowed the partial return of students to classrooms as part of a four-stage process of opening up.
Greece reopened outdoor dining after six months of closures as it eyes the beginning of the tourism sea-son.
“Today I feel like I’m alive again, like I’ve been revived,” joked Andreas Riminiotis, a retiree savouring the ambience at the Da Capo cafe in Athens the day after the country celebrated Orthodox Easter.
And in a jubilant call to action, Britain’s Prince Harry joined pop royalty including Jennifer Lopez at a star-studded concert in Los Angeles Sunday to urge faster and more even global vaccinations.
“Vax Live: The Concert To Reunite The World” featured video messages from the pope and US President Joe Biden and in-person appearances from Hollywood stars such as Ben Affleck and Sean Penn.