COVID: Govt says no need to panic on availability of medical oygen
IANS (FIle photo)

COVID: Govt says no need to panic on availability of medical oygen

New Delhi, April 15, 2021

An inter-ministerial Empowered Group (EG2) of officers today stated that India was in a comfortable position on the availability of medical oxygen with the daily production capacity at 7287 MT and stock at 50,000 MT, more than daily consumption at 3842 MT.

The EG2 met under the chairmanship of Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary, Department for Promotion of Industries and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

The members of the group comprise senior officers from various ministries and departments including the Ministries of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW), Textiles, AYUSH and MSME. It was constituted during the COVID pandemic in March 2020 to ensure the availability of essential medical equipment including medical oxygen in the affected states.

An official press release said that, for the past year, the EG2 has been continuously monitoring and facilitating the smooth supply of essential medical equipment including medical oxygen to the affected states and addressing challenges that arise from time to time. In the present context of increasing COVID cases, the EG2 has been meeting and facilitating the supply of essential medical equipment, particularly related to medical oxygen supply to the States, it said.

According to it, the The EG2 has been meeting and interacting frequently with the States, oxygen manufacturers and other stakeholders to facilitate medical oxygen supply. Apart from the daily production capacity of around 7127 MTs for oxygen, the surplus and as per need, the surplus oxygen available with the steel plants was also being utilized.

The total production has been 100% since the past two days. On 12th April 2021, the medical oxygen consumption in the country was 3842 MTs, 54% of the daily production capacity. The maximum consumption of medical oxygen was by Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Delhi, followed by Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Rajasthan.

"With increasing cases, the medical oxygen consumption will need to keep pace with the requirements of the states. The current oxygen stocks of the country, including the industrial oxygen stocks with the manufacturing plants, was more than 50,000 MT. Along with the ramped up production of the oxygen manufacturing units and the surplus stocks available, the present availability of oxygen was sufficient.

"At the same time, States were being asked to make rational use of medical oxygen and ensure there is no wastage. The states must set up Control Rooms to ensure a smooth supply of oxygen to the districts as per need besides reviewing the requirement of cylinders, tankers etc.," the release said.

The release said the EG2 had initiated several measures to ensure the supply of medical oxygen to various affected states. These include an increase in oxygen production as per the production capacity of each oxygen manufacturing plant. This has resulted in 100% production, thus ramping up the availability of oxygen.

The stock availability from steel plants has increased in the last few days, with 14,000 MTs coming from the Central public sector steel plants alone.

The requirements of top states have been mapped with oxygen sources, including sources across the state borders and those available at steel plants, for greater clarity and assurance for the states on oxygen sourcing. Thus, Maharashtra was able to lift surplus medical oxygen on daily basis from steel plants like JSW in Dolvi (Maharashtra), SAIL in Bhilai (Chhattisgarh) and JSW in Bellary (Karnataka). Similarly, Madhya Pradesh supplemented its oxygen supply from the steel plant in Bhilai (Chhattisgarh).

The challenge at present is to move oxygen from states with less necessity to others in greater need. Mapping of the surplus sources with states that have a greater need for oxygen, such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Chhattisgarh, was being finalised, in consultation with the manufacturers, states and other stakeholders.

This has been undertaken through coordinated planning between the Union Government with the states to map their requirements up to April 30 with the available sources and oxygen stocks.

A sub-group has been formed under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) with the Ministry of Railways and transport departments of States to facilitate the movement of transport tankers for Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO). The moving of oxygen tankers by rail was also being worked out.

Orders have been given by PESO (Petroleum and Safety Organisation) for conversion of argon and nitrogen tankers for use as oxygen tankers, thereby the fleet available for transportation of tankers has been enhanced.

Free inter-state movement of oxygen tankers has been facilitated through MoRTH without registration in the other states. Statewise mapping of cylinders has been done and industrial cylinders have been permitted to be used for medical oxygen after due purging. The placing of orders for the purchase of another one lakh oxygen cylinders by MoHFW was underway.

PSA plants sanctioned under PM-Cares are being closely reviewed for early completion to enhance self-generation of oxygen in hospitals, especially in remote areas.

Daily reviews with the high burden states were being jointly undertaken by DPIIT with MoHFW and Steel Ministry. Oxygen manufacturers are also present in these meetings, along with representatives of the Steel units. This results in the handholding of the states for facilitating oxygen supply, resolving any inter-state issues on supply or tanker movement, etc.

Based on the detailed daily deliberations between officers of DPIIT, MOHFW, Ministry of Steel, various critically affected states, Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) along with key stakeholders including the representatives from oxygen manufacturers, All India Industrial Gas Manufacturers Association (AIIGMA) as per the directions of EG2, a detailed daily mapping of sources for supply of medical oxygen to the affected states is under preparation to ensure uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen.

During discussions, it was also observed that there was an unusual rise in the demand for medical oxygen as well as a steep rise in projections in the demand for medical oxygen as of April 30 in some states vis-a-vis the active COVID cases. EG2 has noted the inordinate surge in demand in such states and directed the MOHFW to examine the same for the rational use of oxygen in coordination with the concerned states.

"EG2 is monitoring the situation of demand and supply of medical oxygen continuously to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to support the uninterrupted supply," the release added.

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