NEW DELHI: If medical oxygen demand is an indicator of the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre’s affidavit before the Supreme Court predicts a harder time for seven populous states — Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi and Chhattisgarh — where demand for oxygen is estimated to increase significantly by April 30.
Forecasting the requirement of medical oxygen by April 30 in its affidavit, the Union government said Maharashtra would require 2,000 tonnes (as against 1,500 tonnes on April 20), Gujarat 1,200 MT (1,000 MT), Uttar Pradesh 800 MT (400 MT), Madhya Pradesh 700 MT (445 MT), Delhi 445 MT (300 MT), Chhattisgarh 382 MT (215 MT) and Tamil Nadu 465 MT (200 MT).
Forecast for oxygen requirement for Karnataka was 111 MT on April 30 as against 300 MT on April 20 and that for Punjab was 82 MT (126 MT). On April 30, the 12 high caseload states will require 6,593 MT of medical oxygen, the Centre said and thanked the steel industry for giving the country the much needed gas at a time of dire need.
“Steel industry has supplied 1,43,000 MT of medical oxygen since September 2020. In April, the supply of medical oxygen by the steel sector increased from 1,000 MT a day in the first week of April to around 2,600 MT on April 21,” the Centre said.
Appearing for the Centre, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said the government has banned supply of oxygen for all industrial purposes except for the medical industry since April 22 as “medical oxygen is a critical component in treatment of Covid-affected patients”. Narrating the national mechanism that monitors oxygen production, availability and supply chain 24×7, Mehta told a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, L N Rao and S R Bhat that oxygen express trains were given green corridors for non-stop transportation.
He said 50,000 MT medical oxygen would be imported in the next three months and India was on the path to increase oxygen tankers from 1,224 at present to 2,000 tankers. “Efforts are being made to increase availability of oxygen tankers to more than 2,000 through conversion of 50% of existing nitrogen and argon tankers (around 600) to transport oxygen as well as through import of 138 cryogenic tankers for oxygen,” he added.
The Centre’s affidavit said, “The Union government, with active and constant supervision and direct involvement of the prime minister and the home minister, is augmenting oxygen supply on a war footing”. On supply of Remdesivir injections, the Centre’s affidavit made a detailed presentation of the availability of the medicine that appears to be in short supply. The Centre said seven Indian companies were under licence from Gilead, US, for manufacturing Remdesivir. Because of the lull before the storm in the present second wave, the companies had considerably scaled down their production. But the seven companies, which were producing 27 lakh vials per month, are expected to produce 90 lakh vials per month by May, as the government on April 12 approved 31 additional manufacturing sites for the seven companies in addition to the 22 existing ones. The Centre said it had allotted 11 lakh vials of Remdesivir to states between April 21 and 30. On April 24, it revised the allocation to 16 lakh vials.