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NEW DELHI : The central government on Wednesday assured the Supreme Court that it will direct states and Union territories within 24 hours to ensure timely salaries and adequate accommodation and quarantine facilities for healthcare staff on the coronavirus battlefront.

The government is also willing to prosecute hospitals and persons concerned under the Disaster Management Act and Indian Penal Code in cases where salaries are unpaid, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said.

The bench, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, sought a compliance report from the health ministry and chief secretaries of all states within four weeks.

The government will modify its 15 May order which had done away with mandatory quarantine of healthcare workers treating covid-19 patients. A minimum of seven-days’ quarantine will be mandatory for healthcare workers.

Senior counsel K.V. Vishwanathan, representing the petitioner Dr Arushi Jain, had sought clear directions to ensure that doctors are paid salaries and given the necessary accommodation and quarantine facilities.

He also said the Centre’s reply to the plea was very “vague" and was not satisfactory as it lacked suggestions on how healthcare workers’ families could be protected from getting infected.

On 12 June, the last date of hearing of the case, the bench had said, “We cannot have dissatisfied soldiers in this covid war." It also asked the government to “travel the extra mile" to ensure the problems of doctors and healthcare workers are taken care of.

Separately, the apex court sought a response from the central government on a plea filed by Kerala nurses’ group, United Nurses Association, seeking adequate PPE kits, safety gear, insurance cover and suitable quarantine accommodation to efficiently treat covid-19 patients.

The court will hear the case along with this plea once the compliance reports are in.

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