New Delhi: With fresh single-day Covid-19 cases touching almost three lakhs on Wednesday and deaths over 2,000 in the past 24 hours, India is almost exploding with the virus load with the biggest single-day spike so far. Adding to the worry is the “triple mutation” variant in the country that is increasing the infection rate, leading to the huge spike in fresh cases.
With the majority of states and Union territories, including Delhi, swiftly running out of oxygen supplies, the Centre has increased Delhi’s quota of medical oxygen from 378 MT daily to 480 MT. However, Delhi has been demanding a hike in this quota to 700 MT per day. A controversy has, meanwhile, erupted when Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia alleged that a Haryana government official had stopped the supply of medical oxygen to Delhi from a plant in Faridabad. He alleged that a similar incident took place in Uttar Pradesh too on Tuesday, leading to a crisis in some hospitals in Delhi. Mr Sisodia, however, clarified that the situation was normal now and the oxygen supply had been restored by both states, though Haryana health minister Anil Vij was not very happy with the situation.
“We are being forced to give our oxygen to Delhi. First, we will complete our needs, then give to others. Yesterday, one of our oxygen tankers that was going to Faridabad was looted by the Delhi government. From now, I have ordered police protection for all tankers,” Mr Vij said. In Delhi, the police had to be used to clear road blockages for faster movement of life-saving oxygen tankers.
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman held discussions with 150 industry leaders on how to meet the “phenomenal increase” in demand for medical oxygen, a critical treatment tool for Covid-19, and assured a “seamless supply” to all states. Measures that the government is taking include import of medical oxygen, round the clock working of the oxygen filling stations and allowing containers used for nitrogen and argon to be used for oxygen, the finance minister said.
The finance minister also gave details of the government’s initiatives to help ramp up the capacity of Remdesivir from 36 lakh vials per month to 78 lakh vials per month. Some of the measures include rapid clearances for new capacities, stopping exports, stopping the exports of APIs and formulations used in the manufacture of this life-saving drug, and allowing EoUs and manufacturers located in SEZs to sell in the domestic market, she said.
The Centre also announced a waiver of the import duty on Remdesivir. “Considering the immediate requirement on the recommendation of the department of pharmaceuticals, the department of revenue has waived customs duty on Remdesivir and its API/KSM. This step will further augment domestic availability of Remdesivir injections,” said chemicals and fertilisers minister Sadananda Gowda.
The Centre also allocated the supply of Remdesivir to 19 states and UTs with a high burden of Covid cases. “Remdesivir being an investigational therapy drug given in acute and severe versions of Covid where oxygen support is a must, this allocation pertains to 14 states to which medical oxygen is allocated and five other states where the high volume of supplies are being observed,” the Union health ministry said. These high burden states include Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand.
However, the director of AIIMS, Dr Randeep Guleria, and a group of doctors have said that Remdesivir is no magic bullet and only a small percentage would need this injection. “More than 85 per cent of people will recover without any specific treatment in the form of Remdesivir, etc, and most will have symptoms like the common cold, sore throat, etc,” Dr Guleria said.
Adding to this, Dr Devi Shetty, top cardiologist and chairman of Narayana Health, said: “If your O2 saturation is above 94 per cent, then there is no problem. But if it is falling after exercise, then you need to call a doctor. It is important you get the right treatment at the right time.”
Dr Naresh Trehan of Medanta Hospitals said relatively few people who are Covid positive require hospitalisation. “The hospital beds should be utilised judiciously and with responsibility. Today we have enough oxygen if we try to use it judiciously. I want to tell the public that if you do not need oxygen, then do not use it as a security blanket. Waste of oxygen will only lead to depriving someone who really needs it,” said Dr Trehan. His statement comes at a time when the social media is flooded with requests for oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentration machines that are either not available or are selling at exorbitant prices in the black market.
Meanwhile, the indigenously made Covaxin has been found to neutralise multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 and effectively works against the double mutant strain as well, the Indian Council of Medical Research said on Thursday....