With increased oxygen demand, will India be able to provide enough oxygen to COVID patients?

The first wave COVID probably made India realise the importance of breathing as we faced a shortage of ventilators. But remarkably, from producing almost no ventilators domestically, India indigenously manufactured thousands of ventilators in just a few months. While India was gearing to manufacture more ventilators to meet the requirement if India ever faces a second wave. But as they always say, requirements change with time and here we are today when the demand for ventilators has lowered and the demand for oxygen is increasing on a daily basis.

The oxygen demand is higher in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic when compared to the first wave. The sudden surge in the number of corona cases has created a panic situation in the country which led to this sudden shot up in the demand for oxygen. With the increased demand for oxygen suddenly the fast-spreading second wave of coronavirus has stretched the medical infrastructure to a breaking point.

As India struggles with the deadly second wave of the pandemic, the continuous need for oxygen supply is standing in front of the nation.  With high COVID cases, states such as Maharashtra, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh have reached their maximum consumption capacity and are now struggling to meet the requirements. In this situation, there’s only one thing that is making everyone worried right now is: Will India be able to supply enough oxygen for COVID-19 patients?

Will India meet its oxygen demand?

Various reports suggest that around 7,200 metric tonnes of oxygen is produced on a daily basis in India, and as per the need, the surplus oxygen available with the steel plants is also being utilised. While according to Union Health Ministry, the medical oxygen consumption in the country was 3,842 metric tonnes, which is 54 percent of the daily production capacity.  Since there is a continuous rise in the number of positive COVID patients, the demand for oxygen is also increasing.

Going by the estimation, more than one lakh people currently need oxygen on daily basis and this data does not include patients who need oxygen due to other medical requirements and not COVID-19 infection.

Apart from the production of oxygen, another major challenge the country is facing is the supply-demand situation. The excess supply of oxygen is currently in East India i.e., in Odisha and Jharkhand, whereas the demand is mostly coming from Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Therefore, despite the availability of supply, it is difficult for the government to fulfil the demand of the states in desperate need because of the time that is required to transport the oxygen.

Online sales of portable oxygen cylinders rising:

With so much rise in the demand for oxygen cylinders for medical purposes, the online sales of portable oxygen cylinders are escalating. With the excessive demand, an increase of 20-30 percent is seen in the prices of these cylinders both online as well as offline. The demand for oxygen has raised the demand of these portable oxygen cylinders to about four times.

The online availability of these portable oxygen cylinders is especially for those who are under home quarantine and need extra medical support.

Steps taken by the government to meet the demand:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi looking at the steep rise in the coronavirus cases ensured the adequate medical grade oxygen supply in the country and called for ramping up its production for the treatment of COVID-19-affected patients.

  1. The Centre directed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to identify about 100 hospitals in far-flung locations of the country for sanctioning money from PM-CARES Fund for the installation of their own oxygen plants.

  2. PM Modi called for a seamless and free movement of tankers carrying oxygen throughout the country. The government has exempted all inter-state movement of oxygen tankers from registration of permits to enable easier movement.

  3. The Centre has allocated 4,880 metric tonnes, 5,619 metric tonnes and 6,593 metric tonnes to 12 states for meeting their projected demand as on April 20, April 25, and April 30, respectively. (The 12 states are: Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan)

  4. The Ministry of Railways has launched the ‘Oxygen Express’, which is moving oxygen by rail.

  5. Cylinder filling plants are permitted to work 24 hours with necessary safeguards.

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