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The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed to maintain ‘social distancing’ till 14th of April for people of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and called it non-negotiable. The Court asked the administration to provide home delivery of essentials and medicines to the members of the public, while hearing a suo moto proceedings titled as “In re: COVID-19 relief and services at the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.” regarding possible spread of infection caused by the COVID-19 virus, if urgent measures were not taken at the earliest.

Acting upon a letter petition, the division bench comprising of Chief Justice T.B. Radhakrishnan & Justice Dipankar Datta observed that the invisible virus (COVID 19) has been wreaking havoc all over the country. It is indeed unfortunate that the virus has spread even to the Andaman Islands, flanked by the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, at a distance in excess of 1500 kms. from the mainland.

Mr. D.C. Kabir petitioner in person wrote a letter to the High Court expressing deep concerns at the possible spread of corona virus if urgent measures were not taken at the earliest. He highlighted various concerns which, according to him, require to be immediately addressed by the administration for the benefit of the islanders during the period of the lockdown announced by the Prime Minister.

Mr. Nandkarni appearing for the administration of Andaman & Nicobar, submitted that the situation in the island, much prior to detection of patients infected with the virus, is under close monitoring by the Ministry of Home Affairs as well as the PMO and that no stone would be unturned to ensure that such situation does not go beyond control.

The court also observed that till date, there are ten positive reports of patients having been infected with the virus. No doubt, it is alarming considering the area and the populance under consideration. The court has directed the Administration to take the following measures:

  • Maintain ‘Social distancing’ till 14th April;
  • Provide Home delivery of essentials and medicines;
  • Shops may be allowed to open where delivery is not possible;
  • Maintain adequate supply of drinking water;
  • Adequate supply of LPG to households;
  • Expedited supply of vegetables and local produces from the nearby islands;
  • Helicopter and shipping services to be used only for essential services;
  • Collection of milk and milk produce by employing adequate vehicles and people to be allowed;
  • Personal Protective Equipment, masks, sanitizers, etc. to be provided to healthcare professional immediately;
  • Proper hygienic conditions to be ensured at hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, health centres, etc.

The Court further directed the administration to take protective measures to ensure that there is no spread of the virus amongst the vulnerable local tribal communities like the Jarawas, the Onges, the Shompens, etc.

However, the bench has sought further report by the Chief Secretary of Andaman and Nicobar Administration and the Monitoring Committee on the status of relief and services extended and the now matter will be taken up again on 8th of April, 2020.

-India Legal Bureau

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