Ebola:HC asks Centre to keep scanners at Pune, Nagpur airports

Unhappy with the Centre's stand that it does not have 'thermal image scanners' to be installed at Pune and Nagpur airports to detect Ebola virus in people coming from African countries, the Bombay High Court today directed that such equipment be provided there immediately.

In public interest and health safety, thermal image scanners should be immediately provided at these two airports, a bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka ruled.

The bench also asked the Centre to file a compliance report after a week (on September 25) stating that it had installed such scanners at these two airports.

Arguing for Centre, its counsel Rui Rodrigues said there was a shortage of thermal image scanners and hence Centre cannot immediately provide them at Pune and Nagpur airports.

"The Centre had two options, either to shift such scanners from other airports to Pune and Napgur airports or repair two scanners lying idle which may cost around Rs 13 lakh and take four months to get functional," Rodrigues said.

The bench, however, expressed displeasure over the submission and said that health safety cannot be compromised at any cost and ordered the government to provide such scanners immediately.

The high court was hearing a PIL filed by activist Ketan Tirodkar alleging that the country is not fully equipped to prevent the spread of the dreaded Ebola virus.

The HC had last week asked the state government to provide medical screening facilities at Pune and Nagpur airports, on the lines of such facilities at Mumbai and Delhi.

The state had filed an affidavit stating that scanners were not put up at these two airports.

The Centre said today that it had received a request from state government in this regard but did not have thermal image scanners available with it to comply with the order of the court.

The doctors at Pune and Nagpur airports have to rely on digital thermometers to detect the passengers who may have fever, said Shyamsunder Nimgade, assistant director, health services in an affidavit filed last week. A written request had already been sent to Centre in this regard, he added.

The affidavit also stated that the Director of Health Services had written to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai and Mumbai Port Trust to start screening crew members of vessels coming from Ebola-hit countries.

The PIL alleged that several Indians or NRIs in Africa were returning due to the outbreak of Ebola in the continent, but there are no facilities either to detect or treat the epidemic in India.

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