New Delhi, April 18
Seeking to address the shortage of medical oxygen as active COVID-19 patients surpassed the 18-lakh mark, the Centre on Sunday said it has expedited installation of 162 PSA oxygen generation plants in health facilities across the country, while the Railways announced special trains to transport the life-saver and several industry majors pitched in by diverting supply to hospitals.
As a record single-day rise of 2,61,500 coronavirus infections took India’s total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,47,88,109, authorities in the worst-hit states admitted they were running short of beds, ventilators and medicines.
Union Minister Harsh Vardhan said all possible support is being extended to states to double production of Remdesivir drug, ensure uninterrupted supply of oxygen and COVID-19 vaccines, besides enhancing healthcare infrastructure.
The setting up of 162 PSA oxygen plants in public health facilities is being expedited and a 24X7 cell is coordinating with the states, he said.
“These will augment medical oxygen capacity by 154.19 MT,” the health ministry tweeted.
The PSA plants manufacture oxygen and help hospitals become self-sufficient in their requirement for medical oxygen, while also reducing the burden on the national grid for its supply of medical oxygen.
Earlier, the ministry had decided to float a tender for the import of 50,000 MT of medical oxygen.
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.
“Since the first empty tankers will move on April 19, we hope to begin operations of Oxygen Express over the next few days. We would be able to send oxygen wherever there is such demand. A green corridor is being created for fast movement of Oxygen Express trains,” an official said.
Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments had approached the Railways Ministry to explore whether liquid medical oxygen tankers could be moved by the rail network, officials said.
The country’s largest steel-maker SAIL, Tata Steel and ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India (AMNS India) said they were supplying medical oxygen to health facilities.
“Responding to the national urgency, we are supplying 200-300 tonnes of liquid medical oxygen daily to various state governments and hospitals. We are in this fight together and will surely win it! @PMOIndia @TataCompanies,” Tata Steel said in a tweet.
“@SAILsteel supplied more than 33,300 tonnes of liquid medical oxygen (#LMO) of 99.7 percent purity of #Oxygen for #COVIDRelief from its integrated steel plants,” SAIL said on Twitter.
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 positivity rate has doubled in the last 12 days to 16.69 per cent and 10 states—Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan—reported 78.56 per cent of the new infections, the health ministry said.
Maharashtra and Delhi, which are among the worst hit, have already sounded the Centre on the shortage of beds, oxygen, medicines and COVID vaccine.
At least six COVID-19 patients died in the ICU of a government hospital in Madhya Pradesh’s Shahdol allegedly due to low pressure in the medical oxygen supply, according to a hospital official.
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”.
Over 25,000 more people tested COVID-19 positive in the last 24 hours in the national capital and less than 100 ICU beds remain available in hospitals, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, highlighting the grim situation.
Kejriwal said he spoke to Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday morning and stressed the need for more beds for the COVID patients. He said he had requested the Centre to reserve at least 7,000 of 10,000 beds in hospitals run by it in Delhi as COVID beds and ensure immediate supply of oxygen.
Currently, only 1,800 of 10,000 central government hospital beds are reserved for COVID-19 patients, he said.
The Northern Railways has deployed 50 isolation coaches, each having two oxygen cylinders, at Delhi’s Shakur Basti railway station and 25 such facilities will be placed at Anand Vihar by Monday, General Manager Ashutosh Gangal said.
Similar facilities were being provided in Maharashtra and other states.
Engineering entrance exam JEE-Mains scheduled to be held from April 27-30 has been postponed in view of the COVID-19 situation, Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ announced, days after the CBSE Class 10 Board exams were cancelled and Class 12 exams were deferred. Several state boards have subsequently postponed their exams.
The COVID crisis has prompted states to further tighten restrictions, besides imposing weekend lockdown.
Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil warned of action against those violating the restrictions imposed by the state government to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The state reported a new daily high of 68,631 COVID-19 cases on Sunday, while 503 deaths pushed the toll to 60,473.
The tough new measures, which exclude essential services, came into force on Wednesday night and will remain in force till 7 AM on May 1.
Section 144 of CrPC, prohibiting the assembly of five or more people at a spot, will remain in force during the period.
Registering a steady increase for the 39th day in a row, the active cases stand at 18,01,316, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has dropped to 86.62 per cent, the union Health ministry said.
“The daily positivity rate in the last 12 days has doubled from 8 per cent to 16.69 per cent,” the health ministry said in a statement. “The national weekly positivity rate has increased from 3.05 per cent to 13.54 per cent in the last one month.”
The cumulative recoveries have surged to 1,28,09,643 after 1,38,423 more people recuperated.
Meanwhile, India took 92 days to reach the mark of 12-crore vaccinations, the fastest country to do so.
It is followed by the US which took 97 days and China which took 108 days. PTI
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