Centre bans industrial use of oxygen as Delhi latest to complain of shortage

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal says Delhi facing an 'emergency' due to an 'acute shortage' of oxygen; Centre announces 'oxygen express' for supply by rail, to also set up more plants, even as minister Piyush Goyal says states should control demand

The Centre has told states to manage the supply of medical oxygen on their own and keep the “demand under control”, as Delhi joined the list of those reporting a shortage in medical oxygen amid the surge in COVID cases. 

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has said that Delhi is facing an “emergency” due to an “acute shortage” of oxygen as the number of COVID cases register a sharp spike and alleged that its quota was being diverted to other states.

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In a letter to Union commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Kejriwal said Delhi needed 700 MT of medical oxygen daily. Goyal, however, said that state governments should keep medical oxygen demand under control. “Demand-side management is as important as supply-side management,” ANI quoted him as saying. 

He said the states are responsible for containing the spread of COVID. “There are reports of oxygen wastage, about people being given oxygen even if they don’t need it,” he said. State governments should check this, he added.

The country has been witnessing a record surge in daily cases of COVID as it battles a second wave that is straining the health care system in many states. Those reporting a heavy load of cases such as 

Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Kerala, and Punjab have said that they are either facing a shortage of or seeing a rapid rise in demand for oxygen to treat COVID patients. 

Given the grim situation, the Centre has written to the states saying that the supply of oxygen for use by industries will be diverted for COVID treatment. In a letter to chief secretaries of states, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that oxygen supply for industrial purposes will be  prohibited from April 22. Some critical industries such as ampoules and vials, pharmaceuticals, petroleum refineries, steel plants, nuclear energy facilities, oxygen cylinder manufacturers, and food and water purification industries will be exempted.

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The Centre has announced that it will set up more oxygen plants and start supplying oxygen through the rail network. The “oxygen express” trains with tankers filled with liquid medical oxygen will travel through a special corridor to help states meet the demand. This decision follows requests from states such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh to the Centre to look at the possibility of transporting liquid medical oxygen through trains.  

Maharashtra, the state worst affected by the current wave of COVID, needs about 1,300 MT of medical oxygen daily. Its total daily production capacity is 1,250 MT. It is now sourcing more oxygen from Gujarat and Chhattisgarh to meet its requirement. 

Madhya Pradesh is looking to augment supply from addition sources.

States such as Uttar Pradesh and Goa are also keeping a close watch on oxygen supply as demand rises rapidly. Uttar Pradesh has announced that it will set up 10 oxygen plants to deal with any likely shortage.   

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