COVID-19 surge: India

COVID-19 surge: India


The PM CARES Fund has approved allocation of funds for setting up 551 Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) medical oxygen generation plants at public health facilities in the country, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on April 25. With 162 such plants approved earlier, the decision would lead to setting up of an oxygen plant in all districts with government hospitals, an official said.

A tweet from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Twitter handle about the development said: “Oxygen plants in every district to ensure adequate oxygen availability An important decision that will boost oxygen availability to hospitals and help people across the nation. (Sic)”.

The PMO said the Fund had given in-principle approval to 551 PSA oxygen generation plants “in line with Prime Minister’s direction of boosting availability of oxygen to hospitals”. The decision came in the wake of oxygen shortages at hospitals in the country amidst a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Prime Minister had ordered the plants to be set up as soon as possible and said they would boost oxygen availability at the district level, the statement said.

The plants would come up in selected government hospitals in district headquarters and the procurement would be done via the Health and Family Welfare Ministry, it said.

“The basic aim behind establishing PSA oxygen generation plants at government hospitals in the district headquarters is to further strengthen the public health system and ensure that each of these hospitals has a captive oxygen generation facility. Such an in-house captive oxygen generation facility would address the day-to-day medical oxygen needs of these hospitals and the district,” the PMO said.

It added that the liquid medical oxygen would serve as a top-up to the captive oxygen generation.

“Such a system will go a long way in ensuring that government hospitals in the districts do not face sudden disruption of oxygen supplies and have access to adequate uninterrupted oxygen supply to manage the COVID-19 patients and other patients needing such support,” the PMO said.

The PM CARES Fund had allocated ₹201.58 crore for installation of 162 PSA medical oxygen generation plants in public health facilities earlier this year, it added.



OXIGEN TRAIN

The first Oxygen Express train for Delhi carrying around 70 tonnes of the life-saving gas will depart from Jindal Steel Works plant in Raigarh on Sunday night, Railway Board Chairman Suneet Sharma said.

The train, with four tankers, will reach Delhi by Monday night, he said.

The railways has chalked out plans to transport medical oxygen from Angul, Kalingnagar, Rourkela and Raigarh to Delhi and NCR region, Mr. Sharma said, adding the Delhi government has been advised to get road tankers ready to obtain the oxygen.

"First Oxygen Express for the national capital carrying four tankers with 70 tonnes of liquid medical oxygen will depart tonight for Delhi Cantonment from Jindal Steel Works, Raigarh. It will reach Delhi by Monday night," the railway board chairman said.

Every few hours, as it has been for the last days, hospitals across the national capital and its suburbs has been sending out desperate messages seeking help on social media and other platforms, flagging their dwindling stocks of oxygen.

In view of the high demand for oxygen in the country following a record spike in coronavirus cases, the Railways has decided to run Oxygen Express trains to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country.

Tankers are being transported on flat wagons by trains for quick supply of medical oxygen.

"We have carried 150 tonnes of oxygen to Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra till now and by tonight we will move 150 tonnes more. About Delhi, we are readying four tankers from Jindal Steel Plant in Raigarh.

"Plans are ready to move oxygen for Delhi and NCR region from plants in Angul, Raigarh, Kalingnagar and Rourkela. We have asked the state government to keep their trucks ready," Mr. Sharma said.

Officials said the Delhi government in its letter to the Railways has asked it to load liquid medical oxygen from nine locations.

"These have been examined and the feasibility analysed after which the State government was informed that oxygen can be transported from seven out of these nine locations. The other two sites were not feasible due to technical reasons. They were also requested to arrange tankers and place indent at stations. The Assistant Divisional Railway Manager, Delhi is being nominated as nodal officer for the purpose," an official said.

Delhi reported a staggering 348 deaths due to Covid-19 as hospitals in the national capital continued to grapple with a severe shortage of medical oxygen. As many as 24,331 fresh cases were reported in the last 24 hours.

Asked if the Railways will cut down on its services due to the surge in COVID-19 infections, Mr. Sharma said trains will keep running.

"Despite COVID, trains will continue to run. Wherever there is demand, we are increasing services. We can rationalise service where demand is less. Over 70% of the trains are currently in operation," he said.
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