The Union’s home ministry has stepped in to ease the reported medical oxygen supply crisis from several regions this week, with top officials intervening directly in specific cases where tankers were restricted by one state from going to the other, top officials told HT.
The problem has been a focus since Tuesday night after some hospitals in Delhi ran out of supply or received replenishment with minutes to spare, prompting the state government to repeatedly raise the issue. Delhi has no large-scale manufacturing of its own and has had to rely on Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
“There were some problems with the [oxygen] scarcity, but we are solving it. During the day, some plants see some problems, but we’re at it, ”said Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla. “Any allotment made to states should be allowed to go.”
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Bhalla said the Center is seeking to repeal the Sept. 18, 2020 order, which said no restrictions will be placed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit supplies to the state hospitals where they are located only.
The second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak has triggered a shortage of hospital beds and other essential supplies such as oxygen and medicines. Oxygen is a critical medical intervention against Covid-19, which in some cases causes respiratory distress. The pandemic has accelerated global demand for it. The need for oxygen has increased to 1.1 million cylinders in low- to middle-income countries alone, according to the World Health Organization.
All previous daily records in India were broken as it reported 315,909 Covid-19 cases on Wednesday. The country also reported the most one-day infections worldwide ever.
All the head of the Industrial Gas Manufacturers Association of India, Saket Tiku, said Bhalla had to intervene in many cases as authorities in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are among those who refuse to move oxygen freely between the state.
“Air Fluid [a manufacturer] reports that their trucks are lined up in Panipat to bring oxygen to Delhi, but a police team has arrived and is not allowing the trucks to move, ”said Tiku.
Another manufacturer, Linde, had also earlier sent a similar complaint to a control room in Delhi.
In his message, Linde said that a senior drug inspector arrived at his Faridabad factory with her team on Wednesday and did not allow supplies to go to Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). He added that they have been told that supply will only go to Haryana. “We supply 70 tpd of Medical Oxygen to all major government and private hospitals in Delhi-NCR which includes all Memorial hospitals. Looking forward to your support for the immediate removal of the restriction to avoid any fatalities, ”said the message from Linde.
Haryana’s deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala said he has no knowledge of any such developments. But central government officials, who have mapped the oxygen needs nationally, are worried.
“If people go parochial for oxygen, how will we manage,” said a member of a group that has been empowered to form into the situation. The group meets every two hours to assess the situation.
Delhi deputy prime minister Manish Sisodia said at a press conference on Wednesday that he had to seek the Centre’s assistance on two occasions, when delivery trucks were stuck in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh between Tuesday and Wednesday. “If we have to keep chasing every truck and ask the Center to intervene, then it’s not a very good situation,” he told reporters on Wednesday.