The Telangana High Court on Tuesday ordered the state government to test samples from all dead bodies for the coronavirus disease at government hospitals and criticised the state for its overall poor testing numbers. The court's order nullifies the orders issued by the Director of Public Health on April 24 that no blood samples from dead bodies would be collected for testing. The Telangana government has been under fire from activists and opposition parties alike for not testing enough and not revealing testing numbers.
The last time the Telangana government released data on testing numbers in the state was on May 17, when it stated that it had conducted 22,842 tests, of which 1,388 or 6.1% of all tests returned positive. Before May 17, the state last released testing data on April 30 when it had tested 19,325 samples, of which 1037 persons had tested positive. Telangana has 1920 total cases, with 1164 recoveries and 56 deaths as of Wednesday morning.
However, on Tuesday a two-judge bench of Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy, while hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) that accused the state of carrying out fewer tests, asked the state to furnish a detailed report on the total number of tests conducted between May 1 and 25. The report sought by the court seeks details on tests done on migrant workers, asymptomatic, high risk and confirmed cases.
The court also asked the state to increase its testing numbers, noting that the number of tests done in Telangana is much less than other states. "Why were tests not conducted even in high-risk cases?" the bench asked the state government, reported The New Indian Express.
The judges asked the state why it was under-testing and stated that the administration cannot cite financial constraints as human lives are the most important factor in good governance. The court urged the state government to rise to the occasion and prevent the spread of the disease.
The court was hearing a batch of PILs filed by professor PL Vishveshwar Rao, Vice President of Telangana Jana Samithi party, and others. The court had even accepted a letter addressed to the court by Dr KP Rajender Kumar, a retired district medical and health officer from Jogulamba Gadwal district as a petition. The PILs and letters challenged the state commissioner and director of Medical Health instructing health officials to not collect blood samples from dead bodies for COVID-19 tests.
The court also sought a report on the reasons for converting red zones to orange and orange zones to green. The court also sought specific reports on testing done from Suryapet and Nirmal districts and the influx of migrant labourers to these districts for May. Further hearing over the case is expected on June 4.