Coronavirus: India is set to import 1 lakh metric tonne of medical oxygen to prepare for winter shortage
India’s Union Health Ministry has started the work on liquid oxygen import in order to prepare for the anticipated oxygen shortage in upcoming winter months. It is expected that the country might witness a surge in Covid-19 cases during winter season.
On Wednesday, HLL Lifecare Limited, a public sector undertaking, on behalf of Heath Ministry has floated a global tender to procure one lakh metric tonne of liquid oxygen. The oxygen will be used for various central and state government hospitals. The total cost of importing and distribution of medical oxygen will come to approximately ₹600-700 crore.
Data indicates that on Tuesday, approximately 3.97% of the Covid-19 patients in India were on oxygen support. 2.46% were assigned to ICU beds who were also on oxygen support and 0.40% were on ventilator support.
Before lockdown was implemented in India in March, the country’s oxygen manufacturing capacity per day was around 6,400 metric tonne. Out of this about 1,000 metric tonne was being utilized for medical purposes daily and the remaining by industries.
A government source said, “Industries have opened up following unlock procedures and as on September 30, the country’s daily capacity of oxygen production is around 7,000 metric tonne, of which around 3,094 metric tonne is being used for both COVID and non-COVID patients and is just enough to meet the demands.” The source further explained, “So this one lakh metric tonne of liquid oxygen which is being planned to be procured from foreign countries would create a one month buffer in case demand rises further during the winter season.”
With the upcoming festive season and colder months, it is expected that number of Covid-19 cases may see a spike. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has urged people of India to continue following regulations for Covid-19 like wearing masks, maintaining hand hygiene, following respiratory etiquette and staying away from gatherings and congregations. He said, “These viruses are known to thrive better in the cold weather and low humidity conditions. In view of these, it would not be wrong to assume that the winter season may see increased rates of transmission of the novel coronavirus in the Indian context too.”
States have been asked to keep a check on their inventory in facilities and hospitals and plan accordingly for replenishment.