Capital gasps for oxygen amid 28k new Covid-19 infections
Delhi on Tuesday sounded the alarm over exacerbating shortage of oxygen, a crucial tool in the fight against the worsening Covid-19 crisis, as chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said some hospitals were left with only a few hours of life-saving supplies, and appealed to the Centre to urgently boost deliveries to prevent the health care system from being overrun.
The national capital, which is under a lockdown to control the alarming transmission of the infectious disease, has reported precariously low levels of oxygen, crucial drugs and critical care beds. On Sunday, Kejriwal said the oxygen shortage in Delhi had turned into an “emergency”.
“Serious oxygen crisis persists in Delhi. I again urge the Centre to urgently provide oxygen to Delhi. Some hospitals are left with just a few hours of oxygen,” Kejriwal tweeted shortly after holding a review meeting with deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, health minister Satyendar Jain and several senior government officials.
Medical oxygen is a critical medical intervention against Covid-19, which causes respiratory distress in some cases, and the pandemic has accelerated the global demand for it. The need for oxygen has increased to 1.1 million cylinders in low to middle-income countries alone, according to the World Health Organization.
Sisodia said there will be chaos in the city if the stocks are not replenished by Wednesday morning. He posted a note on Twitter mentioning the status of oxygen stocks in various hospitals. According to the note, Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, Burari Hospital, Ambedkar Hospital, Sanjay Gandhi Hospital, BL Kapoor Hospital and Max Hospital in Patparganj were among those that had only “eight to 12 hours of oxygen left”.
Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said its oxygen stock was to last till 1am. The hospital has 485 Covid-19 beds, of which 475 are occupied. “6,000 cubic metres of it is left, which at the rate of current consumption will last till 1am. Need urgent replenishment,” its chairman DS Rana said.
With Delhi logging more than 100,000 Covid-19 cases over the past four days, the strain on the Capital’s oxygen supply continued to grow, with several hospitals having to discharge Covid-19 patients, restrict new admissions, and cancel routine surgeries.
Daily cases of Covid-19 continued to soar as the city recorded its biggest single day spike of 28,395 new infections, pushing the total number of confirmed cases past 900,000. This was the fifth time in the past week that the city has set a new single-day case record. The seven-day average of daily cases in Delhi is now 22,198. This number, which denotes a region’s case curve, was just 9,299 a week ago – a growth of nearly 140% in just one week. If this rate of growth continues for one more week, then Delhi appears set to breach the 50,000 mark for daily cases.
Average testing positivity rate – the proportion of tests that return positive for Covid-19, which serves as a good barometer for an expanding outbreak – has touched 24.2%. This means that one out of every four samples tested in the past week has come back positive. At a daily level, the positivity rate is soaring even higher – it has nearly sextupled in just two weeks. On Tuesday, 32.8% samples tested came back positive, against 4.9% of all samples on April 6. In early February, this number had to dropped a low of 0.2%.
Underlining the efforts by his government to tackle the crisis, the Delhi CM tweeted: “We are working on a war footing to ensure oxygen supply in Delhi, and are also talking to the central government. An increase in the number of oxygen beds is happening on a large scale.”
The chief minister said the government was purchasing medical oxygen from Noida in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to meet the shortage. He also directed officials to increase the number of beds with oxygen facilities for Covid-19 patients across hospitals.
Deputy CM Sisodia tweeted: “All hospitals are sending SOS calls regarding oxygen supply. Suppliers are being stopped in different states. The Centre has to stay sensitive and active to ensure that there is no jungle raj among states regarding oxygen supply.”
“Most hospitals in Delhi have only 8-12 hours of oxygen left. We have been urging the Centre for the past one week that to increase the quote of oxygen supply. If adequate supplies are not given to the hospitals by tomorrow morning, it would be chaos,” he added.
In an address to the nation on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted that the surge in Covid-19 cases led to sharp increase in the demand for oxygen in different parts of the country. He said the work to increase oxygen production was taking place at several levels. “The Centre, state governments, private sector are trying to make oxygen available to all those who are in need of it. Many steps are being taken in this direction,” he said.
On Sunday, the Delhi chief minister wrote to the Prime Minister, seeking his help in improving the supply of medical oxygen in Delhi. In a separate letter to Union minister of commerce and industries Piyush Goyal, he highlighted that the central government sending oxygen to other states by engaging a company which happens to be a “major supplier” in Delhi was at the root of the problem.
Goyal later said: “Demand-side management is as important as supply-side management. Containing Covid-19 spread is the responsibility of state governments and they should fulfil this responsibility.”
A statement issued by the Delhi government after Tuesday’s review meeting by the CM said: “Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday raised serious concerns over acute oxygen shortage across various Covid-19 facilities in Delhi. He urged the central government to urgently provide oxygen to Delhi since some hospitals are left with just a few hours of oxygen. CM Arvind Kejriwal convened a review meeting today, wherein he directed the officials to increase oxygen beds across several facilities in Delhi… Deputy CM Manish Sisodia said that there should be no jungle raj between the states on the supply of oxygen, for this, the central government will have to be very sensitive and alert.”
A senior home ministry official, who did not wish to be identified, said: “The central government is working on ensuring smoother supply of medical oxygen for Delhi as requested by the Delhi government.”
A senior official in the central government who did not wish to be identified said that 241MT of oxygen was supplied to Delhi on Monday and 355.33 MT on Tuesday (till 3pm) by five manufacturers, and the total stock of oxygen in the city’s hospitals was 508 MT.
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said in a tweet: “Media people are asking about oxygen supplied to Delhi. 240 Mt and 365 Mt oxygen supplied to Delhi on Mon & Tue against requirement of 700 mt per day. Stock position in most of the hospitals is not more than 10 to 12 hours. Every day we require 700 mt oxygen.”
The Delhi high court said on Tuesday sufficient oxygen was not being supplied to Covid-19 patients in the national capital and asked the Centre if supply could be diverted from industries.
“Industries can wait. Patients cannot. Human lives are at stake,” a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli told the central government, while monitoring the Covid-19 situation in Delhi through a plea on testing.
The bench said it heard that doctors at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital were being forced to reduce oxygen being given to Covid-19 patients.
One of Delhi’s biggest government hospitals, Safdarjung Hospital, was running low on oxygen. All elective or planned surgeries were cancelled on Monday morning after its oxygen supply ran low. “No elective surgeries to be performed due to deficiency of oxygen supply in the hospital till further orders. This is an urgent request,” a notice from the hospital’s anaesthesia department said.
A senior doctor at the hospital said on condition of anonymity: “The demand for oxygen has increased manifold due to the increase in the number of Covid-19 patients who need high flow oxygen. There was a delay in supply and stocks are sufficient only for a few hours more.” The hospital, however, received more oxygen supplies by the evening.