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Oxygen Emergency in India

April 26, 2021

Picture this:

– AIIMS raises alarm over shortage of oxygen and restricts admission to emergency ward.

– 25 patients in Jaipur Golden Hospital, Delhi, died for lack of oxygen.

– Moolchand hospital has sent out an SOS over oxygen shortage.

– Batra hospital in south Delhi has run out of oxygen.

– Delhi’s Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, which has at least 100 patients on oxygen support, said it would not admit any more patients.

– Delhi’s Pentamed Hospital, which has 50 patients on oxygen support, said if it doesn’t get new supplies in an hour, lives will be at risk.

– Delhi’s premier Gangaram Hospital flagged oxygen shortage four times in last 24 hours.

– Pentamed Hospital sent two of its vehicles to different plants in Bahadurgarh and Bawana for getting oxygen supply but there are long queues

GAP BETWEEN DEMAND AND SUPPLY:

– India produces 7,100 MT of oxygen per day.

– On April 18, the Central government prohibited manufacturers from supplying oxygen for non-medical use but exempted nine process industries that require uninterrupted operation of furnaces.

– These nine industries use around 2,500 MT of oxygen per day.

– This leaves only 4,600 MT of oxygen per day for medical use.

– On April 12, Central government said India’s medical oxygen requirement was 3,842 MT per day, when there were 12,64,000 cases.

– That number has since shot up by over 70% to over 21,57,000.

– This means that India’s daily requirement of medical oxygen is currently about 70% more than the amount that has been exempted from industrial use – 7,800 MT.

– If India’s current reserves of 50,000 MT were used to fill the gap between demand and supply of medical oxygen – 3,200 MT – they would cover barely two weeks of need, based on current demand.

– The current level of demand for medical oxygen (7,800 MT) already outstrips combined daily production of industrial and medical oxygen (7,127 MT) as per the Central government’s own admission in court.

DEMAND LIKELY TO INCREASE FURTHER:

– However, demand is likely to rise since coronavirus cases are growing exponentially. With the reproduction number – or the average number of people one coronavirus patient is likely to infect – at more than two in several large states, experts are predicting a tsunami of cases in the coming weeks.

GOVERNMENT’S EFFORTS TO AUGMENT SUPPLY:

– Saudi Arabia has shipped 80 MT of liquid oxygen to India. However, here too, Adani Group is coordinating the handling the shipment on India’s behalf.

– The government has floated an emergency import tender on Wednesday for 50,000 MT of oxygen. It is not clear when the imports will reach the country.

– Government has sanctioned 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants for installation in public health facilities in all states, but that will augment oxygen capacity by only 154.19 MT.

– The gap between demand and supply will still remain.

PROGRESS ON VACCINATIONS:

– On progress of vaccinations to contain cases and demand of oxygen, about 11 crore people have received one dose, and over 1.7 crore people have been fully vaccinated after receiving two doses. But experts say India is unlikely to meet its target of covering 25 crore people by July, especially as cases continue to surge. The potential protection from vaccines is less than optimal. So, the cases and the demand for oxygen is likely to rise further.

PROBLEM OF DISTRIBUTION:

– Even if the government diverts all oxygen production in the country to medical uses and the coronavirus case count does not rise in the coming weeks, the country will face a massive logistical challenge to transport and store the oxygen.

– This is because oxygen production is unevenly distributed across the country. Government records show that some of the high Covid-19 case-load states such as Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have no significant production capacities of their own.

It is a national emergency which requires extraordinary efforts. Do you think our leadership is ready?