The Telangana High Court on Thursday pulled up the state government for its claims on COVID-19 testing and asked how it would match up to its own plans to conduct 50,000 tests in a matter of 10 days.
On Sunday, the Telangana government announced that it would conduct 50,000 tests in 30 Assembly segments of Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Vikarabad, Medchal, and Sangareddy districts, in 10 days.
A bench comprising Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice Vijaysen Reddy was hearing a petition filed by one Varun Sankineni, who had questioned the state's poor testing figures and sought that a court-appointed committee look into the claims made by the Telangana government.
The petitioner's counsel pointed out that despite its claim to conduct 50,000 tests, only 1,251 samples were tested on June 16 followed by 1,096 on June 17, as per the state government's own medical bulletin, whereas at least 5,000 tests need to be conducted daily to meet the target. While Telangana began providing the numbers of samples tested earlier this week and did so for two days, it did not give the details in its bulletin on Thursday.
Pointing out that only 2,347 samples were taken instead of 10,000 in two days, the court observed "Hence, according to the documents submitted by the state, the testing is hopelessly low from the target set by the state itself."
The petitioner's counsel also pointed out that according to data available, other states were far ahead in testing. Even the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh has tested 10,865 persons per million, compared to Telangana's 761 tests per million.
The state government has drawn flak from all quarters for its poor testing numbers and has repeatedly maintained that all guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). However, even these claims were put to test by the court.
The court pointed out that as per ICMR guidelines issued on May 18, "all symptomatic (ILI symptoms) frontline workers involved in containment and mitigation of COVID-19" and "asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case are to be tested once between day 5 and day 10 of coming into contact."
The petitioner's counsel pointed out that there was no evidence produced by the state government to show that these guidelines were being followed by it.
"It seems that despite the guidelines issued by the ICMR, the said guideline is not being implemented by the state," the court observed.
"Therefore, (Director of Public Health and Family Welfare) Dr Srinivasa Rao is directed to inform this court whether this particular guideline issued by the ICMR is, indeed, being followed or not?" it asked.
The court also pulled up the state government for not following its orders. On May 26, the High Court had ordered authorities in Telangana to carry out 'random testing' and 'community testing' in the districts declared as 'Red Zones' and 'Orange Zones' besides containment areas.
The court noted that the directions were yet to be carried out.
Meanwhile, 352 people tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday. This is the highest daily jump in the cases since the first case was reported on March 2.
The state's total tally rose to 6,027, of which 2,531 people are currently undergoing the treatment. The death stands at 195 and 3,301 people have been discharged.