People wait to refill empty oxygen cylinders, at Bhogal Jangpura, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. (Photo by Amal KS/ Hindustan Times)
People wait to refill empty oxygen cylinders, at Bhogal Jangpura, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. (Photo by Amal KS/ Hindustan Times)

Oxygen supply in Capital to be pushed up, says Kejriwal

The health infrastructure in Delhi, which is in the middle of a “last resort” lockdown to arrest the alarming spread of the infectious disease, remains overwhelmed by record highs in infections and deaths.
By Sweta Goswami, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON APR 28, 2021 02:45 AM IST

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said that his government will import 18 cryogenic tankers from Thailand and 21 ready-to-use oxygen plants from France, and added that they were setting up 1,200 more intensive care unit (ICU) to provide relief to a health care system that has been stretched beyond its capacity amid a raging fourth wave of Covid-19 infections.

The health infrastructure in Delhi, which is in the middle of a “last resort” lockdown to arrest the alarming spread of the infectious disease, remains overwhelmed by record highs in infections and deaths, with complaints of shortage of medical oxygen and ICU beds pouring in from across the city.

In a digital news briefing on Tuesday, the chief minister said that within a month, 44 oxygen plants will be set up at various hospitals in Delhi, including 21 that will be imported from France. Of these, the Centre will install eight oxygen plants by April 30, he said.

Kejriwal said the situation has improved significantly in the past two days after the chaos witnessed last week due to an oxygen shortage. “We do not have as many SOS calls from hospitals now as we got on three days last week – Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I want to thank the central government for helping us through this time by providing their top officials who worked in close coordination with the senior officers of the Delhi government. I thank our Delhi government officials too who have worked day and night to address the crisis,” he said.

Delhi reported 24,149 fresh cases on Tuesday even as 381 people died of the infection in the city. The positivity rate continued to stay above the 30% mark at 32.72%

Due to a shortage of tankers, the Delhi government was facing problems in transporting its oxygen quota decided by the Centre, he added. “Hospitals were jam-packed, and I was scared that a major untoward incident may lead to deaths due to lack of oxygen.”

Kejriwal said they were arranging 500 ICU beds at the Ramlila Ground in front of the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital. “Another 500 ICU beds are being readied at the main Ramlila Ground in front of Lok Nayak Hospital. At the Radha Saomi Satsang facility, we are arranging 200 ICU beds.” Kejriwal said that by May 10, the Delhi government will add 1,200 ICU beds to the Covid-19 infrastructure.

He said the current Covid-19 wave is dangerous because it is more infectious and is making patients severely ill. “That is why the demand for ICU beds has increased manifold.” He said every hospital is treating patients more than its capacity. “All ICU beds are full. The central government gave us 500 ICU beds at the DRDO [Defence Research and Development Organisation] facility in Delhi Cantt, but all beds got filled in just three hours.”

“The Delhi government has decided to import 18 cryogenic tankers from Bangkok [Thailand], which will start arriving from tomorrow [Wednesday],” he said. Kejriwal said they have sought the Centre’s help to have the Indian Air Force airlift these tankers. “Once these 18 tankers reach the city, the problem of transporting liquid oxygen will be solved, and Delhi will get its full quota of oxygen from the Centre…”

“We are importing 21 PSA oxygen plants from France. These are ready-to-use plants and will be installed in different hospitals. In the next month, we will be installing 44 oxygen plants in Delhi. Of these, eight are being installed by the Centre. For some reason, the project was delayed, but now by April 30, these eight plants will be ready. The remaining 36 oxygen plants will be set up by the Delhi government of which 21 are being imported from France and 15 are indigenous.”

A government spokesperson said while IAF is airlifting these tankers, the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) is coordinating the transportation till Delhi.

The Centre provides up to 490 MT of oxygen to Delhi daily, but the Capital has faced a deficit of about 100MT due to transportation issues, according to people aware of the developments.

The Delhi high court on Tuesday said its confidence in the Delhi government has shaken and it may ask the Centre to step in to manage the escalating situation.

Kejriwal said many chief ministers and industrialists came forward to help the Delhi government after he wrote to them seeking support. “Talks have advanced with some of them, but they have requested not to be named. So, I thank all the chief ministers, industrialists, NGOs, and religious organisations who have come out to help us in this crisis. Whatever decisions I announced is because of their help in some way or the other.”

Posting a message on Twitter later, Kejriwal thanked Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren after he announced that 58MT oxygen was being sent to Delhi from a plant in his state.

Dr PK Bharadwaj, secretary of Delhi Voluntary Hospitals Forum, said, “Whatever the government is doing now – like getting the tankers and oxygen plants – is a good step but should have been done before. We must ensure that all hospitals install at least small oxygen plants that can act as buffer before they are given registration, just like we ask for fire clearance.”

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