A nightmare on repeat - India is running out of oxygen again
Hospitals in India are running dangerously low on oxygen, causing panic among medical workers and raising fears that the country’s death toll from Covid-19 will rise sharply as a surge of infections overwhelms health services and funeral sites.
The Delhi High Court today directed the Centre to forthwith provide oxygen by whatever means to the hospitals in the national capital which are treating serious COVID-19 patients and is facing scarcity of oxygen.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said the responsibility to ensure oxygen supply is squarely on Central government shoulders and if necessary, the entire supply of oxygen to industries including steel and petroleum can be diverted for medical usage.
India on Friday reported a record 332,000 infections over the previous 24 hours — more than any other country has reported in a single day during the pandemic — as well as more than 2,200 deaths. Many more infections and fatalities remained uncounted, with crematoriums and burial grounds running out of space. Panicked calls for emergency oxygen have resounded from hospitals across New Delhi, which has some of India’s best healthcare infrastructure, as well as elsewhere in the country.
Some governments did. The southern state of Kerala increased supply by monitoring demand closely and planning for a rise in cases. Kerala now has surplus oxygen that it is sending to other states.
But Delhi and some other states do not have their own oxygen plants and are relying on imports.
The Supreme Court has weighed in, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration for a national Covid plan that addresses the oxygen crunch.
The federal health ministry had invited bids for new oxygen plants in October last year - more than eight months after the beginning of the pandemic in India. Of the 162 that were sanctioned, only 33 have been installed so far - 59 will be installed by the end of April and another 80 by the end of May, the ministry has said.