Demand for medical oxygen surges with rise in COVID-19 cases
With the rise in COVID-19 infections across various parts of India, both public and private hospitals have been facing an unprecedented rise in medical oxygen use. As per reports, demand for medical oxygen has spiked from 750-800 metric tonnes in March to 2,500 metric tonnes in recent weeks. Significantly, Coronavirus infection has damaged lung tissues of at least 3-5 percent active cases (more than 50,000), calling for the need of using external oxygen support. Over the past six months, India’s demand for medical oxygen has grown threefold. As cases continue to rise, hospitals in both rural and urban regions are running out of oxygen.
Not only the hospitals, but also the industrial sector is also facing a shortage of oxygen for their production use. The healthcare sector is using almost 3,000 metric tonnes of oxygen every single day for treating COVID-19 cases struggling with breathlessness. Eventually, India’s critical oxygen supply is being diverted to the healthcare sector, leading to production losses for industries that require oxygen for their production processes such as pharmaceuticals, steel and glass.
As per experts, industrial demand for oxygen was stable at 70% to 80% of the production capacity before the pandemic hit the country. Furthermore, daily usage of medical oxygen was also less than 1,000 metric tonnes before the pandemic, out of the total 6,900 metric tonnes manufactured by the country every day, as noted by the Health Ministry. While the supply was abundant earlier, it has now become insufficient and expensive.
Amid increasing concerns over a fresh rise in cases due to pollution and the Winter season, the Union Health Ministry is preparing to import one lakh metric tonne of liquid oxygen to meet the future needs if the country witnesses a sure in COVID-19 cases.
HLL Lifecare Limited, a public sector undertaking, is inviting bid for procuring one lakh metric tonne of liquid oxygen on behalf of the Health Ministry. As per reports, the process of importing the oxygen and distributing it to various states will take place at an estimated cost of Rs. 600-700 crore.
One of the major reasons behind the critical shortage in the supply of oxygen is that the oxygen plants have been operating continuously since the pandemic struck the nation, without proper maintenance or services. At the same time, the production of oxygen is a difficult and lengthy process.
Speaking to media, industry experts have stated that an increase in medical usage of oxygen has affected industrial productivity, with state governments Punjab and Maharashtra demanding the availability of stock of medical oxygen for unprecedented circumstances. Several states are also looking at alternatives for installing oxygen in jumbo cylinders and tanks to keep as a buffer stock.