The oxygen meant for industries will now be diverted for medical use due to the spike in coronavirus cases in the country. In a communication to all states, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said the central government-constituted Empowered Group-II has recommended prohibiting the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers from April 22 till further orders, with exceptions of nine specified industries.
The Centre passed this order on Sunday to plug the oxygen gap in the country as active COVID-19 cases surpassed the 18-lakh mark. Union Minister Harsh Vardhan said that 162 pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants in public health facilities will be set up very soon. "These will augment medical oxygen capacity by 154.19 MT," the health ministry tweeted.
The Railways said it will run 'Oxygen Express' trains over the next few days to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments had approached the Railways Ministry to explore whether liquid medical oxygen tanks could be moved by the rail network.
Meanwhile, several industry majors have also pitched in by diverting oxygen supply to hospitals. The country's largest steel-maker SAIL, Tata Steel, and ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India (AMNS India) said they were supplying oxygen to hospitals.
According to the steel ministry, 28 oxygen plants located in the steel facility of both public and private sectors are supplying about 1,500 tonnes of medical oxygen every day. Also, an additional stock of 30,000 MT, including the safety stock, is being made available for medical use.
The high-burden states of Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh from coronavirus have already alerted the Centre on the shortage of beds, oxygen, medicines and COVID vaccine.
In MP, at least six COVID-19 patients died in the ICU of a government hospital due to alleged low pressure in the medical oxygen supply on April 17. The incident occurred at the Government Medical College Hospital (GMCH) on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday. However, the district administration denied that these deaths were caused due to the "shortage of oxygen".
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the national capital is left with less than 100 ICU beds. There's also an acute shortage of oxygen, he added. The Delhi CM assured that in the next 2-3 days, his government will come up with 6,000 beds with oxygen facility at Yamuna Sports Complex, Radha Swami Satsang Beas premises and schools.
"In Delhi, we are now left with less than 100 ICU beds. We are falling short of oxygen as well," Kejriwal said.
The Northern Railways has deployed 50 isolation coaches, each having two oxygen cylinders, at Delhi's Shakur Basti railway station. Additionally, 25 other such facilities will be placed at Anand Vihar by Monday, according to General Manager Ashutosh Gangal. Similar facilities will also be given in Maharashtra and other states.
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