Covid-19: Ensure free movement of oxygen, MHA tells states
In a letter to chief secretaries, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla said some states were trying to curb interstate movement of oxygen supplies by exercising provisions of the Epidemic Disease Act, Disaster Management Act, Essential Commodities Act or other state/Union Territory specific law, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).Updated: Sep 19, 2020, 06:26 IST
The ministry of home affairs (MHA) on Friday asked all states and Union Territories to ensure free movement of vehicles carrying oxygen as it is an essential public health commodity and an important prerequisite for managing moderate and severe Covid-19 cases.
In a letter to chief secretaries, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla said some states were trying to curb interstate movement of oxygen supplies by exercising provisions of the Epidemic Disease Act, Disaster Management Act, Essential Commodities Act or other state/Union Territory specific law, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
He added that some states mandated manufacturers or suppliers located in the state to restrict their oxygen supplies to hospitals within the state.
“It is emphasised that medical oxygen is an essential public health commodity and any impediment in the supply of medical oxygen in the country may critically impact the management of patients suffering from Covid-19 in other parts of the country,” the letter said.
The home secretary said states/UTs should make sure there are no such restrictions imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between states and transport authorities should be instructed to allow free interstate movement of oxygen carrying vehicles.
The MHA also told state governments they may constitute multidisciplinary teams, comprising representatives of the health, industry, transport and other related departments, to continuously monitor the availability of medical oxygen in their respective jurisdictions.
“Any shortfalls or related problems that are encountered in this regard, should be immediately brought to the notice of the Central Control Room that has been established in the ministry of health and family welfare,” he said.
The home secretary also referred to Unlock-4 guidelines that mentioned the lockdown was limited to Covid containment zones and all activities are permitted outside the containment zone, except a few prohibited activities. “Further, there shall be no restriction on interstate and intrastate movement of persons and goods,” the letter said.
The letter came roughly a week after the Union health ministry asked states not to place restrictions on transport or supplies of medical oxygen. The letter was sent in response to a Maharashtra government order under the Disaster Management Act, that sought to prohibit movement of oxygen from outside the state.
The Madhya Pradesh government reported shortage after Maharashtra stopped supplies on September 7, reserving 80% of production in the state for its Covid hospitals. At least three other states — Punjab, Karnataka and Telangana — reported problems in getting supplies.
This week, the Madhya Pradesh high court ordered that oxygen supply would continue uninterrupted to the state without being influenced by the Maharashtra government’s order.