The COVID-19 crisis in India deepened on Thursday as the country recorded another record-breaking number of new cases and deaths.
India hit a daily high with 4,12,262 new infections and 3,980 fatalities, taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 2,10,77,410 and the death toll to 2,30,168, according to Union health ministry data.
Even as the country reeled under the second wave of the pandemic, the Supreme Court asked the Union government to start preparing for the third wave by creating a buffer stock of medical oxygen.
Also read: Why Kerala has been overwhelmed by COVID 2.0
“We may enter stage three and if we prepare today, we may be able to handle it. Whatever stocks procured needs to be sent to the hospitals. It’s not about allocating it to the state but also the logistics to see that it is distributed to hospitals,” Bar and Bench quoted Justice DY Chandrachud as saying. The court was hearing Centre’s response to non-compliance of its direction to supply 700 metric tonnes of oxygen to Delhi.
“What is the problem in enhancing the supply [of oxygen]? If it’s not required then it can be stored. But then it can be said that there is no need for oxygen panic. This will be a buffer for Delhi,” he said.
Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the government had ensured a supply of 730 MT to Delhi for treating COVID patients. He also submitted a detailed plan to the court on the procurement and supply of oxygen to various states.
Mehta argued that if the Centre supplied 700 MT of oxygen to Delhi then it would have to take it from some other state’s quote. “If there is an adverse consequence then we can’t be held responsible because of someone else’s incompetence,” he said.
To this, Justice Chandrachud said the Centre’s formula for allocation of oxygen to states needed a relook and called for an “oxygen audit” across the country.
The Centre also moved the Supreme Court against the Karnataka High Court order asking it to increase the daily liquid medical oxygen allocation for the state to 1,200 MT from the present 965 MT. The Centre sought a stay on the HC order.
Mehta told a bench headed by Justice Chandrachud that the state was being supplied 965 MT LMO and the order needed to be stayed urgently. The bench said it will have to look at the paper book before issuing any order regarding the issue.
With the surge showing no signs of slowing down, states scrambled to limit the damage.
The Kerala government announced a lockdown from May 8 to 16. The decision was announced a day after the state reported a record 41,953 infections. The lockdown will come into force at 6 am on Saturday.
Kerala’s active caseload is 3.75 lakh, the third highest in India. Its test positivity rate on Wednesday was 25.69 per cent. With the number of patients admitted to hospitals increasing, the state’s health infrastructure has come under immense pressure.
In Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said: “To break the chain of transmission of the coronavirus in the state, we have to completely shut everything till May 15.”
“We can’t shut things for too long, but with more than 18 per cent positivity, we can’t remain open,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka became the latest country to impose travel restrictions to people coming from India. Travellers from India will not be permitted to disembark with immediate effect, Sri Lanka’s Civil Aviation Authority said.
The move came after several countries, including the US and the UK, imposed travel restrictions on those coming from and to India.