With covid crisis deepening around the world, it is India with the worst hit currently facing shortages of resources and management pushing its total fatalities past the 250,000 marks over the last 24 hours. After the 1st wave calmed a little, it was beyond one’s wildest dreams to think of the ‘shortage of oxygen’ as a major cause of fatalities during the 2nd wave.
India has reported more than 300,000 daily injections for 21 consecutive days, highlighting the country’s slide into the world’s worst health crisis. One research model is predicting deaths could quadruple to 1,018,879 from the current official count of almost 254,200.
Just as some countries needed ventilators in large quantities last year, India is now desperately seeking oxygen supplies and concentrators.
Initially, when the government hospitals were ‘twiddling one’s thumbs’ over providing the oxygen cylinders and beds for covid patients, the locals turned to private hospitals which used the crisis as an opportunity to snatch away people’s money right into their pockets. With the government assuring after assuring for the oxygen’s quick delivery, A small part of this surge is being met by the concentrators.
To be sure, oxygen concentrators are useful only to those who don’t require intensive care. The machines deliver about five to 10 liters of the gas per minute, typically at about 93% purity, whereas those fighting Covid in hospitals may need as much as 60 liters per minute, which can be met only by liquid-oxygen tanks.
“There are only a finite number of oxygen tankers and cylinders around. So, the logistics of refilling them and bringing them to the destination is a severe bottleneck,” said Meher Prakash of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research.
The oxygen shortage has been a huge problem not only in cities but also in small towns and villages where the health infrastructure is already extremely weak.
Why lack oxygen?
One of the causes for this mismanagement of oxygen is the exorbitant price level which dismally compels the locals to practice self-isolation as the only therapy for covid even when they gasp for air.
A small 100-liter cylinder now costs Rs 8,000 and above, up from Rs 4,500-5,000, and its refilling cost has risen from Rs 150-250 to Rs 500-800 in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and other cities.
In Tier-II and Tier-III cities, refilling costs range from Rs 400 to Rs 600. A 5-litre oxygen concentrator, which until two months ago cost Rs 45,000-50,000, now costs Rs 80,000-90,000, its monthly rent up from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000-20,000.
The central coordination to fix the supply problem is the prerequisite for solving the plight, inducing the judiciary to step in. Experts say India is producing enough oxygen, at just over 7,000 tons a day. Most are for industrial use but can be diverted for medical purposes.
The Indian government has now directed most of the country’s supply of industrially produced oxygen toward the health care system.
Amid high demand, suppliers have been ramping up capacity to be able to produce more than 9,000 tons of medical oxygen by mid-May.
However, most oxygen producers are based in India’s east, while the soaring demand has been in cities in the western and northern parts of the country.
A slight relief.
Foreign India owing to the healthy and amiable relations internationally is helping with the oxygen to be delivered in the country for a cooperative and globalized future ahead.
“India received 2,060 oxygen concentrators, 30,000 vials of Remdesivir, 467 ventilators, and three oxygen generation plants from the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands, and Israel” the government said.
An official statement of the Union Health Ministry released on Saturday also informed that India has been receiving international donations and aid of COVID-19 relief medical supplies and equipment since April 27, 2021, from various countries and organizations.
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