With unprecedented Ebola outbreak causing havoc across the world in mind and the urgency and seriousness needed to deal with the dreaded disease by detecting the suspected cases of infection, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra Government to provide adequate detection facilities at international airport in Nagpur, on the line of Mumbai, within 48 hours.
Taking note of the affidavit filed by the Centre, which said there were three flights coming to Nagpur from affected Dubai and the State Government has already been requested by a communication to start health screening, Justices A S Oka and G S Kulkarni remarked: “If the Central Government has provided facilities, the State should also provide the same facilities. If steps are delayed, you (State) know the consequences.” The court pointed out that though adequate steps had been taken, the airport in Nagpur left scope for concern.
Similarly, there were six flights arriving in Pune from the affected nations via Dubai and Sharjah, Dr V L Gokak, Senior Regional Director, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Pune told the High Court. The Judges directed the State Government to provide adequate detection facilities at international airport in Pune also, within 48 hours and leave no scope of concern.
“(The) State should adopt same measures, which Union has adopted. Considering urgency and seriousness, we direct the State to provide adequate facilities at Nagpur and Pune on par with the facilities at the international airport in Mumbai,” the Court ordered. It clarified that all facilities in Pune and Nagpur had to be provided within 48 hours.
The HC has also asked the state to file an affidavit of compliance on or before September 12. The Centre had earlier said all passengers alighting from aircraft originating from the four Ebola-affected West African nations were subjected to a “hi-tech” thermal scanners installed at the entry points of airports. The Centre further submitted in the HC that passengers who approached immigration counters without undergoing health check-up were refused clearances and sent back to the health counters. They are bound to get a stamp and doctor’s signature.
The State had said Ebola helplines were established in Mumbai and other places in the State. While giving registration numbers of ambulances in Mumbai and Pune, the state contended it had adequate stock of “personal protective equipment”. Activist Ketan Tirodkar has filed a PIL urging that India needed to ban entry of any person travelling from west African countries to India, especially to Mumbai.
It is crucial to recall that Nagpur Today, too, had flashed a report titled: “Is Nagpur ready to tackle deadly Ebola virus? Is system in place at Airport to kill menace?” wherein it was stated that nations across the world, today, are grappling with a common problem and also initiating various measures on war-footing to deal with the monstrous menace. The monster is in the form of a rare but extremely dangerous virus, Ebola. Ebola is historically rooted in Central Africa, but has now moved to West Africa and is on the verge of spreading its deadly tentacles in many parts of the world. The unprecedented Ebola outbreak is causing havoc with hundreds of deaths. With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the Ebola outbreak in West Africa an international public health emergency, India put its airports on high alert with the most advanced surveillance and tracking systems. There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola. An epidemic has to be stopped by isolating suspected cases in ultra-clean conditions and quarantining those who had been in contact with them.
But the question remains: Is Nagpur ready to crush the Ebola monster before it strikes the city? Is the system in place at Nagpur Airport to tackle this deadly virus? Are District Administration officials geared up to prevent entry of Ebola in the city? The picture appears dreary. Nagpur Airport is now in the focus. The Airport caters to the flights from Dubai and other Middle-East countries. Although there is no direct flight coming to Nagpur from any African countries, passengers landing in the city from any other country could also be potential carriers of Ebola virus and routine screenings have to be started and additional medical practitioners should be available from Public Health Department, GMHC, Mayo and other Government Hospitals. But the scenario at the Airport appears contradictory…………