The Delhi High Court on Tuesday said that in case there were no guidelines issued by the Centre, it expected the city government to expeditiously consider the issue of early re-testing of international travellers who test positive for COVID-19 on arrival.
Justice Rekha Palli, who was hearing a petition by a mother whose 18-year-old son from the United Kingdom was admitted to a private hospital here for isolation after testing positive for the virus upon his arrival, also asked the Delhi government why the genome sequencing report of the patient — who was stated to be positive for the omicron variant– cannot be shared with him.
The judge noted that during the pendency of the petition, the petitioner’s son tested negative and was discharged from Fortis Hospital.
The petitioner told the court although her son was now with her, several other patients were being held up in various health facilities for days as the hospitals were not conducting COVID-19 re-tests periodically. It was also contended that the mother has the “right to know” and should thus be given the genome sequencing report of her son.
“It is expected that in case no guidelines are issued by the Union of India, the Delhi government will expeditiously consider the matter so that patients, like the petitioner’s son, do not suffer. Delhi government will also inform why the genome test report can’t be made available,” the judge ordered.
The petitioner, represented by lawyer Vikram Hegde, had moved the court last month seeking to know the outcome of the genome sequencing test carried on her son.
The counsel for the hospital stated that while the COVID-19 test report has been given to the patient, the genome sequencing report, which disclosed that the presence of omicron variant, was not given to him as the same was only with the government authorities.
“We don’t have a copy of the genome report. We get an excel sheet (from the authorities),” said counsel Arjun Dewan, appearing for Fortis.
In response to the petitioner’s assertion that the hospital was not conducting any re-test upon her son when he was admitted, the lawyer said that the hospital administration was only following the Delhi government directive that international travellers who test positive for the virus have to be re-tested on the tenth day of the first test or after three days of being asymptomatic, whichever is later.
Delhi government counsel Arun Panwar said the directive was in line with the guidelines issued by the Centre and sought time to seek instructions.
Central government counsel Bharati Raju stated that there was no ban on repeat RT-PCR in their guidelines.
The high court had on December 29 sought responses of the Centre and the Delhi government on the petition and had said while the protocols imposed by authorities ought to be followed, the petitioner mother was entitled to know the genome test result which was not a national secret.
The petitioner had alleged that her son who tested positive for COVID-19 at the airport here after coming from the United Kingdom was not being discharged by the hospital for lack of clarity on the virus variant.
She had claimed that in spite of her son being a mild case of COVID-19, the private hospital was not re-testing him.
The court had directed Fortis Hospital to place on record the genome sequencing test report and also asked it to again conduct an RT-PCR test on the patient.
The court had further asked the private hospital to supply the copy of both the reports, genome sequencing and RT-PCR, to the petitioner as well as central and Delhi governments.
The Centre had told the court that the Delhi government was managing the whole scenario and as per the guidelines, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) provided the report to the state government which in turn has to inform the patient.
On being asked by the court if the genome test report was a confidential document as it was not shared with the patient, the counsel for the Centre had replied in the negative.
The court was earlier informed that samples for genome testing of the virus have to be mandatorily sent in case of positive cases at the international airport.
The matter would be heard next on January 14.