New Delhi: India continued to struggle to contain Covid-19 as close to 4 lakh fresh cases and over 3,500 deaths were reported on Sunday. Hospitals and patients continue to beg for beds and oxygen while state governments keep urging the Centre to increase their quota and provide more oxygen.
Several hospitals in Delhi and some embassies sent SOS messages for oxygen and Delhi MLAs and the Congress' youth wing leaders rushed cylinders in time.
“We have arranged five D Type oxygen cylinders for Rainbow Children's Hospital from our Rajghat Response Point. The government's oxygen reserves are extremely limited due to reduced oxygen supply to Delhi, but we are doing everything possible to avert any untoward incident,” tweeted Delhi MLA Raghav Chaddha after receiving an SOS message from the hospital that has neo-natal care and premature babies on oxygen. Later, the hospital got 10 more cylinders from its vendors.
Several diplomatic missions are now reporting Covid infection among their staffers. Slovenia, United States, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, New Zealand and Tanzania are some of the embassies and high commissions that have reported Covid cases. Some have been cured while some are still under treatment. Last week Tanzania lost its defence advisor Col. Moses Beatus Mlula to Covid. He was under treatment at the Base Hospital, Delhi Cantonment.
On Saturday the Philippines embassy and on Sunday the New Zealand high commission were provided oxygen by Congress workers much to the dislike of the ministry of external affairs as the Opposition slammed MEA for not doing enough for the diplomatic corps. The New Zealand HC had tagged youth Congress leader B.V. Srinivas seeking help.
MEA reacted by saying that the chief of protocol and heads of divisions are in touch with all high commissions, embassies and that the MEA is responding to their medical demands, especially those related to Covid. “This includes facilitating their hospital treatment. Given the pandemic situation, all are urged not to hoard essential supplies, including oxygen," MEA said.
Later, the New Zealand high commission said they were trying all sources to arrange for oxygen cylinders urgently and “our appeal has unfortunately been misinterpreted, for which we are sorry.”
Given the grim situation and constantly increasing demand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a meeting to explore ways to increase oxygen supplies. “Considering the requirement of medical oxygen amidst the Covid-19 pandemic situation, the government of India explored the feasibility of conversion of existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen. Various such potential industries, wherein existing nitrogen plants may be spared for production of oxygen were identified,” Prime Minister’s Office said in a press note.
The process of converting the existing Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) nitrogen plants for production of oxygen was discussed. So far 14 industries have been identified where conversion of plants is under progress. Further, 37 nitrogen plants have been also identified with the help of industry associations.
It was discussed that many industries like steel plants, refineries with petrochemical units, industries using rich combustion process, power plants etc have oxygen plants which produce gaseous oxygen and this can be tapped for medical use. It was discussed to identify industrial units which produce gaseous oxygen of requisite purity, shortlist those which are closer to cities/dense areas/demand centres and establish temporary Covid care centres with oxygenated beds near that source.
“It is expected that around 10,000 oxygenated beds can be made available in a short period of time by making temporary hospitals near such plants. State governments are being encouraged to set up more such facilities with oxygenated beds to deal with the pandemic,” PMO statement added.
The Centre is also planning to rope in final year students of MBBS and nursing colleges to boost healthcare manpower as the existing lot of doctors, nurses and other workers are now getting exhausted due to high load of daily cases out of which majority are critical.
Meanwhile, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria said that the country needs to go under stricter lockdown to break the chain of transmission and the Haryana government announced a week-long complete lockdown in the state from Monday morning. The state had imposed a weekend lockdown in nine districts -- Gurgaon, Faridabad, Panchkula, Sonipat, Rohtak, Karnal, Hisar, Sirsa, and Fatehabad – from Friday evening till Monday morning.
Union home ministry is expected to come out with fresh guidelines for setting up "micro and mini containment zones" in states which are consistently reporting a double-digit positivity rate.