The Centre has decided to import 50,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen as demand has risen exponentially due to the surge in daily coronavirus cases. The Ministry of External Affairs via its missions abroad has been directed to explore possible sources for import.
With over 1.42 crore infections, India’s caseload is the second highest in the world, after the United States. The second wave in India has led to states grappling with shortages of hospital beds, oxygen, medicines and vaccine doses. Several patients and their acquaintances have taken to social media to seek assistance to find access to oxygen supplies, remedesivir and hospital beds.
In a statement, the health ministry said a meeting of the Empowered Group 2 was held on Thursday to review the situation. It said demand for medical oxygen has been especially raised by 12 states with highest active coronavirus cases. This includes Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.
“Sources of medical oxygen and their production capacity was mapped to match the requirement of states and an indicative framework has been developed to guide the states on the sources of medical oxygen,” the ministry said. “Accordingly, 4880 MT, 5619 MT and 6593 MT have been indicated to these 12 states for meeting their projected demand as on April 20, 25 and 30.”
The ministry said medical oxygen is a critical component to treat coronavirus patients.
Maharashtra, the country’s worst-hit state, had on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deploy the Indian Air Force to deliver oxygen tanks. A day later, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope had said that the state government had also approached its neighbouring states for oxygen supply, but they were not able to help because of its increased demand.