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Covid 19 Second Wave and Acute Shortage of Oxygen in India

Shortage of Oxygen in India
Heavy shortage of medical oxygen witnessed amid the Covid 19 second wave. Image source: Internet

The second wave of the Covid-19 has left infected patients gasping for breath in India.
Hospitals in many states are facing an acute shortage of medical oxygen. Many hospitals in Delhi, Maharashtra and few other states are currently operating with a shortage of medical oxygen.

Over the past few weeks, many breathless Covid-19 patients have died due to the unavailability of medical oxygen in hospitals situated in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharastra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
Medical oxygen is necessary for hospitals to keep critical Covid patients alive.
• The oxygen crisis in Delhi and Maharashtra has led to the death of many patients. Moreover, the crematoriums are running out of capacity.
• To mitigate the current situation, top courts of the country had to step in to take stock of the worrying situation prevailing in the country.
• Several hospitals in Delhi had approached the High Court complaining that they have very little oxygen left which would last only a few hours and consequently many patients could die.

Strange as it may sound, as per the government, ‘there is no shortage of oxygen production in the country.’
• At the same time, it needs to be mentioned that India on Thursday witnessed a spike of 315,802 fresh Covid-19 infections and more than 2000 deaths.
With this rapid spike in the number of Covid-19 patients, the scarcity of oxygen has also deepened.
• The pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of the entire system. Last year, during the first wave, there were limited labs, PPE kits, medicines, and testing kits.
• This year the country is suffering from scarcity of oxygen.

The massive wave of SOS messages on Twitter and other social media platforms depicts the seriousness of the shortage of oxygen in these states.
While opposition parties are slamming the centre and state government for these situations, the centre and state governments are trying hard to cope-up with the demand for more oxygen.

• The demand for oxygen in India was not as high during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. During the period, the demand for liquid medical oxygen increased from 700 metric tonnes per day (MTPD) to 2,800 MTPD.
• However, during the second wave, it has skyrocketed to 5,000 MTPD. The sudden spike in demand for oxygen was witnessed from the start of April 2021.
• The demand skyrocketed after Maharashtra started witnessing a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases since February.
• The situation worsened as the second Covid wave hit with blistering force in March.
At the moment, India produces more than 7,000 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen per day, which is enough to support the current requirement of medical oxygen.
However, uneven supply and logistical issues have led to an oxygen crisis in some states.

Many states that have seen the highest surge in Covid-19 cases are facing an intensive crisis in oxygen supply.
• Maharashtra is one such state as it requires more medical oxygen than what it produces at the moment.
• Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh does not even have oxygen manufacturing plants and is relying on other states for oxygen supply.

The Centre has also sanctioned the installation of 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants in public health facilities across various states.
These plants are meant to increase the medical oxygen capacity by 154.19 metric tonnes, according to the health ministry.

Conclusion: If India continues to witness a sharp surge in daily Covid-19 cases, the oxygen shortage could be felt by more states.
• India, on Thursday, reported 315,802 fresh Covid-19 infections and more than 2000 deaths.
• This is a world record for the highest single-day spike in cases.
• Both figures are the highest recorded in India since the pandemic began in 2020.
To add to the woes, logistical issues in supplying oxygen have also become a major issue for companies that manufacture liquid oxygen.
The 24×7 availability of cryogenic tankers, necessary for transporting liquid oxygen is difficult, given the fact that many hospitals are facing a shortage at the same time. The need of the hour is to manufacture more cryogenic tanks, which can take up to four months.
The shortage of such tankers has led to a significant delay in inter-state transportation of oxygen from manufacturers to hospitals. It may be noted that medical facilities and healthcare centres located in remote areas face a bigger crisis due to longer transportation time.

Use of trains to supply oxygen to states will ease the shortage that some states are facing. The decision to let suppliers use argon and nitrogen tanks for oxygen supply will also help ease the shortage in some states.

• Thus, the only way out of the current crisis is by making the existing supply chain more efficient so that the oxygen could reach every single patient in the country who needs it.
The government’s recent decision to import 50,000 metric tonnes of oxygen is also likely to help mitigate the demand crisis in the next few days as operations have already started.

Also Read: Assam Model: The Silent Fight against Covid-19 Pandemic First Wave

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Written by Mriganka Pathak

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