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Written by: Smita Pandey (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)

β€œAlthough the population of the entire State stands at a meager number of approximately 7 lakhs, we are informed that presently vaccines are not available for the 18-44 age group whose population reportedly stands at 2,90,000 (two lakhs and ninety thousand) only,” said a division bench of justice Meenakshi Madan Rai and justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan.

It was on 4th June 2021; a writ petition filed by Mr. Jorgay Namka, Advocate as amicus curiae, regarding the non-availability of COVID-19 vaccine for such a scanty population of the north-eastern state, Sikkim. It’s been often observed that several businesses, including the media and medical industries, have mostly ignored India’s north-eastern states in a variety of ways. Politicians from the state have occasionally done the same thing.

The Hon’ble High Court of Sikkim, on the other hand, recently stated that the lack of vaccines, medications, beds, and other facilities in the state is not only a significant problem but also an unacceptably strange one. The little state barely has a population of seven lakh people. For such a population, an immunization stock of fourteen lakh will suffice. However, the state officials have been unable to do so, which is a disgrace. The Court also expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the State still has no policy developed to cope with the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are of the considered judgment that the State Respondents must have policies in place to deal with the third wave to protect the people of Sikkim from its effects and that such policies must be widely advertised for the general public’s understanding. The preparedness should also include upgraded infrastructure, both medical and non-medical. This,Β of course, includes human resources,” the Bench observed.

The state’s mortality rates are alarmingly high when compared to its population. The court also stated that the state’s current economic situation is dire. Tourism, the state’s main business, has taken a backseat as the virus has compelled everyone to stay at home. The lack of vaccines and treatments for both covid positive and negative individuals is a difficult condition for the people of the state during these trying times.

“Considering the number of Covid-19 positive persons in North Sikkim, this number is abysmally low.” The Bench has advocated for increased ICU capacity for both covid and non- covid patients. As there are only three ICU beds that have been aside for Covid-19 patients in the current District Hospital in the Northern District. Also, there is a prominent shortage of ICU beds for ordinary patients in Southern Sikkim. For which the Bench reiterated that the Hospital cannot be devoid of ICU beds for general patients.

The court was also concerned about raising awareness about the medical procedures to be followed after a person tests positive. The court demanded that, despite the respondent’s assertion that steps have been taken to make the general public aware of the steps to take to avoid contracting the virus, a summary of steps to be taken by a person who has tested positive be prepared by the Health and Family Welfare Department and widely advertised in the best interests of the State’s population. Along with the summary, a doctor’s cell phone contact should be provided to address and assuage the fears of people who test positive for the virus.

The state respondents have also been instructed to set up Mobile Testing Laboratories and RT-PCR report testing labs for the general public as soon as possible. It is common knowledge that Sikkim is vulnerable to landslides, earthquakes, and heavy rains. Patients’ testing and treatments cannot be halted in the event of such natural anomalies. As a result, testing laboratories and beds must be established as soon as possible in each of the four districts, to minimize traveling time and hardship. The court also ordered the state to organize VRDL facilities within ninety days of the order’s issuance.

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