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March 21, 2020

Infected, suspected patients put together in quarantines may aggravate situation: LHC

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March 21, 2020

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: A Lahore High Court full bench Friday sought a detailed report from the Punjab government about measures being taken to combat coronavirus pandemic and facilities being provided to patients in quarantines. Secretary for Primary Healthcare Muhammad Usman and other officials were present in the court when the bench took up a public interest petition questioning the inadequate measures taken by the government in wake of the novel virus hitting the country.

Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan headed the bench along with Justice Ayesha A Malik, Justice Shahid Jamil Khan and Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi. The chief justice expressed concern as the secretary said two labs had been designated in Lahore for free tests facility. “Do you think two labs are enough in a city of 100 million population?” the CJ asked the secretary. The secretary also admitted that the government was not able to establish quarantines as per the international standards.

Justice Shahid Jamil Khan noted that the government kept infected and suspected patients together in quarantines, which could aggravate the situation. Chief Justice Khan remarked that the country was in a war-like situation and the government needed to create awareness among the public. To a query, the provincial secretary said the federal government could be able to apprise the court of current situation at Taftan border with neighbouring country Iran. About precautionary measures for court premises, the secretary said SOPs would soon be formulated after meeting registrar of the LHC.

The bench adjourned further hearing until March 24 and directed the secretary to furnish report about the facilities in quarantines and testing facilities. The bench also issued a notice to the federal government and directed a law officer to submit an updated report on behalf of Adviser to Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza.

Judicial Activism Panel’s chairman Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique filed the petition pleading that coronavirus hit the entire country due to government’s failure to take timely steps. He said transportation at airports, railway stations and bus stands should not be allowed without proper screening of the passengers. He asked the court to include surgical mask, sanitizer and temperature reading guns in life saving items.

APP adds: The chief justice asked about the number of people lodged in Multan Quarantine Centre besides seeking details of facilities being provided in quarantine centres and available test kits.

To which, the secretary stated that the government provided test kits to Shaukat Khanum Hospital which was providing test facility free-of-charge. The chief justice noted that already two weeks had passed and all required steps should have been taken by now.

If appropriate steps were not taken after the situation got worse, then what would be their benefit, he questioned. The chief justice observed that the people were being transferred to cities from a distance of 2,000km and there was a possibility that it might become a cause of spreading the virus.

Justice Shahid Jamil, another member of the bench, observed that why the people were not being tested before transfer to the cities. To which, the secretary replied that people were being shifted after tests whereas affected people were kept separated. At this, Justice Shahid Jamil observed that services of army and air force could be sought for keeping the affected and suspected persons separate.

ISLAMABAD: In fear of coronavirus the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday ordered to release prisoners involved in petty crimes. The court has directed the authorities concerned to release all those prisoners who were jailed with petty crimes or were jailed for less than seven years.

During hearing Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Justice Athar Minallah remarked that such huge number of prisoners in jails may be dangerous at this time of coronavirus as the virus may spread in jails if any of the prisoners contracted it.

He also remarked that Iranian courts ordered to release the prisoners, and therefore, they were passing the same orders to save others from this pandemic.

The CJ said that all the prisoners with petty crimes or imprisonment with less than seven years may come out on bails by depositing their surety bonds. He also said that the government would pay the surety bonds if the prisoners failed to do so.

The decision has come at the moment when there are over 453 coronavirus patients across the country. The data showed that at least three people and hundreds of others are infected of coronavirus in different parts of the country.

In the order, IHC has barred police from making any unnecessary arrests and has asked for the release of those prisoners who do not pose a threat to society. This directive is only applicable to prisoners convicted in cases in IHC.

The order will also apply to prisoners who have had their bail pleas rejected. The spread of the coronavirus and the consequent health emergency has prompted the unusual decision.

The court has however clarified that cases of prisoners being released on bail will continue and the criminals will have to comply with the authorities. Any negligence by the authorities in this regard could have serious consequences, the order stated.

IHC has also ordered Health Ministry to screen all prisoners on release and for a detailed report of the prisoners’ release to be submitted by March 24.