The government on Friday, April 16, issued its third emergency order in 24 hours to ensure the uninterrupted supply of cylinders across states and to allow manufacturers and suppliers to serve hospitals across India.
The order came in less than 10 days after the government insisted that there is no shortage of medical oxygen in the country, even as hospitals raised concerns over depleting stocks and rising fatalities, reported NDTV.
The order, signed by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, came hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was briefed about the government's attempts to boost production and supply of oxygen cylinders amid a second wave of the deadly virus.
"... medical oxygen is an essential public health commodity... impediment in supplies may impact management of COVID-19 patients... ensure (i) no restriction is imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between states/ UTs... (ii) no restrictions shall be imposed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit supplies only to hospitals of the state in which they are located... (iii) free movement of oxygen-carrying vehicles into the cities..." the centre's order read.
Oxygen supply is crucial for the treatment of those who have advanced COVID-19 symptoms, or face shortness of breath and require a ventilator.
Several states, including Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, have complained of a shortage of oxygen cylinders. Several incidents of hospitals turning away patients and refusing to admit them have come to the fore.
Families of patients are being offered a signed undertaking that states they will not hold the facility legally responsible for the shortage of oxygen.
On Thursday, the government identified 12 states that desperately need oxygen supply amid the ongoing health crisis.
Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan will be given more than 17,000 metric tonnes by April 30.
The same order also mentioned that at least 100 new hospitals would get their own oxygen plants.
The centre has decided to import around 50,000 metric tonnes of oxygen from abroad and permit industrial-purpose oxygen to be used to make up the shortfall.
As the virus spreads like a wildfire, overwhelmed staff and hospitals are trying to win this war with an underfunded health infrastructure.