COVID-19: Centre initiates action to avoid panic regarding availability of medical oxygen

Amid rising demand for medical Oxygen in the wake of rising COVID-19 patients in various states, the Centre has stepped in to allay the fears about its shortage.

The Centre on Thursday said the current oxygen stocks of the country including the industrial oxygen stocks with the manufacturing plants are more than 50,000 metric tonnes (MTs). Along with the ramped-up production of the oxygen manufacturing units and the surplus stocks available, the present availability of oxygen is sufficient.

At the same time, the Centre has asked the States to make rational use of medical oxygen and ensure there is no wastage of oxygen. Besides, the Centre has instructed the States to set up Control Rooms to ensure smooth supply of oxygen to the districts as per need, review requirement of cylinders, tankers.

Further, the Centre has noted that there is a sufficient production capacity of around 7127 MTs for oxygen in the country, and as per need, the surplus oxygen available with the steel plants is also being utilized. The country has a daily production capacity of 7127 MT of oxygen per day.

Against this, the total production has been 100 percent since the past two days, as directed by the inter-ministerial Empowered Group 2 (EG2) headed by the Department for Promotion of Industries and Internal Trade (DPIIT) Secretary Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, the supply has gone up rapidly. On 12th April 2021, the medical oxygen consumption in the country was 3842 MTs, which is 54 percent of the daily production capacity. The maximum consumption of medical oxygen in the country is by states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, followed by Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Rajasthan.

The EG2 has taken several measures to ensure the supply of medical oxygen to various affected states.

Some of the major measures as follows:

  • Increase oxygen production as per production capacity of each oxygen manufacturing plant; this has resulted in 100 percent production in the oxygen manufacturing units, ramping up the availability of oxygen in the country (as stated above).

  • Utilise the surplus stocks available with Steel Plants. The stock availability from Steel plants has increased in the last few days, with 14,000 MTs coming from stocks of the CPSUs Steel Plants alone, and this has helped ramp up total LMO stocks in the country.

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

  • The challenge presently is to move oxygen from States with less necessity to States with increased necessity. Mapping of the surplus sources with States that have a greater need for oxygen, such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, etc is being finalised, in consultation with the manufacturers, States and other stakeholders. This has been undertaken through coordinated planning between the Government of India and State Governments to map their requirements up to 30th April 2021 with the available sources and stocks of oxygen in the country.

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

In addition, the EG2 has taken key decisions for the seamless movement of Oxygen tankers, they included

  • 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 movement of oxygen tankers inter-state has been facilitated through the ministry of road transport and highways without registration in the other states;

  • Further, mapping of cylinders state-wise has been done and industrial cylinders have been permitted to be used for medical oxygen after due purging;

  • Placing of orders for the purchase of another one lakh oxygen cylinders by the union ministry of health is also being undertaken;

  • PSA plants sanctioned under PM-Cares are being closely reviewed for early completion of 100 percent of the plants to enhance self-generation of oxygen in hospitals, especially in remote areas.

  • Daily reviews with the high burden states are being jointly done by DPIIT with the ministry of health and Steel Ministry. Oxygen manufacturers are also present in these meetings, as are the Steel units. This results in handholding of the States for facilitating oxygen supply, resolving any inter-State issues on supply or tanker movement, etc

Moreover, a detailed daily mapping of sources for the supply of medical oxygen to the affected states is under preparation to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen.

During the course of discussions, EG2 has observed that there is 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, 2021, in some states vis-a-vis the active COVID 19 cases. EG2 has noted the inordinate surge in demand in such states and directed the union health ministry to examine the same for rational use of oxygen in coordination with the concerned states.

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