The Health Ministry told the Lok Sabha that Punjab had reported four deaths due to oxygen shortage in India during the second wave of COVID. Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told the Lower House that the ministry had sent several letters to State Governments and reminders but only Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh had replied.
"Request for data on the subject was emailed to all states/UTs including the last email sent on November 29, 2021. Only two states (Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh) have responded. Punjab has emailed that in the state four suspected deaths have occurred due to lack of oxygen in one hospital (private) in Amritsar district," the ministry said in a written reply.
One Among Worst-Hit State By Second Wave
The state was one of the worst-hit by the second wave of COVID. The heavy caseload had pushed the daily demand for medical oxygen to about 350 MT, resulting in an acute shortage of life-saving gas. In fact, in May, the Punjab Government had even approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi to facilitate an "oxygen corridor" with Pakistan. According to a report by Al Jazeera, there were at least eight such requests made by then Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and other politicians from the state asking Modi to procure oxygen from Pakistan, whose city of Lahore is barely 50km from Amritsar. The request, however, was turned down by the Centre.
The state's Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu had even said that Punjab has a hand-to-mouth existence in terms of O2 supply. "We are just hand-to-mouth in terms of oxygen supply to various hospitals of Punjab," he had said.
On April 24, six patients lost their lives in a hospital in Amritsar after the facility ran out of oxygen. Similarly, on the night of May 12, two more hospitals in the city were confronted with the same situation.
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