The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the Maharashtra government to furnish details about the steps or measures it had taken to set up COVID-19 testing facilities in all districts.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice K K Tated was hearing a petition filed by one Khalil Wasta, a fisherman, seeking a direction to the government to set up testing labs in non-red zone districts like Ratnagiri.
According to the plea, Ratnagiri district, with a population of 16 lakh, has six hospitals, of which two are reserved for COVID-19 patients.
Ratnagiri had reported only seven cases so far, of which two patients had died and the remaining had recovered from the infection, the petition stated.
However, the number of positive cases may shoot up, as over 44,000 migrants were permitted to enter Ratnagiri from Mumbai and Pune and another 30,000 entered without passes, the petitioner claimed.
Wasta further said Ratnagiri did not have any testing labs and swab samples from the district were being sent to the Government Medical College at Miraj in Sangli, which is over 150 km away.
Apart from Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and Raigad districts also did not have testing labs, he claimed.
The petitioner's advocate Rakesh Bhatkar informed the court that on May 7, the Indian Council of Medical Research had issued a list of eight government hospitals and medical colleges and 18 private hospitals in Maharashtra which can conduct tests.
The B K L Walawalkar Rural Medical College in Ratnagiri district was on the list, he said.
Assistant government pleader Manish Pabale informed the court that the hospital was yet to collect a certificate from the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).
The court then noted that when the government had set up multiple testing facilities in Mumbai and Pune, why the same had not been done in other districts of the state.
The court said the problem does not pertain only to three districts mentioned in the petition, and said every district of Maharashtra should have at least one testing facility.
The court suggested that the government must consider setting up mobile testing units.
The bench directed the government to file an affidavit and posted the plea for further hearing on May 29.