The supply of oxygen meant for industrial use will now be diverted to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen in the country as it battles a record surge in the COVID-19 cases in the deadly second wave of the pandemic, said a letter from the government to the chief secretaries of all the states.
Amid spiralling coronavirus cases in the country, the demand for medical oxygen has gone through the roof. There have been reports of shortage of medical oxygen from several states and Union Territories, including Maharashtra and Delhi.
The government’s move is aimed at plugging the oxygen gap in the country, particularly in the high-burden states – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan – the letter from the Home Secretary’s office said.
Nine industries – Ampoules and vials, pharmaceutical, petroleum refineries, steel plants, nuclear energy facilities, oxygen cylinder manufacturers, waste water treatment plants, food and water purification, process industries which require uninterrupted operation of furnaces, processes, etc. – however, have been exempted from this prohibition, it said.
Oxygen is a critical component in the treatment of Covid-affected patients.
To ensure supply of in bulk and rapidly to patients, the Railways will also run ”Oxygen Express” over the next few days to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country. A Green Corridor is being created for the fast movement of these trains.
The Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments had earlier approached the Railways Ministry to explore whether liquid medical oxygen tankers could be moved by the rail network.
Amid a manifold hike in the demand, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade has conveyed that this has already reached about “60 per cent of the total daily oxygen production”, and is expected to rise further.
India reported a record daily increase of infections on Sunday with 2, 61,500 new cases in the last 24 hours.