Amid hospitals crammed with patients crying out for oxygen supplies, India’s largest hospital chain on Thursday asked the government to tag oxygen tanks as ambulances and enable quick green corridor movement across states. As India recorded the world’s highest daily tally of 3,14,835 new COVID-19 infections, hospitals in the national capital and other major cities complained of “dangerously low” levels of oxygen that is needed for critically ill patients. The situation has been made worse by states that house oxygen manufacturing units restricting inter-state supplies.
Apollo Hospitals Group Joint Managing Director Sangita Reddy, which has hospitals in the national capital as well as adjoining Noida, tweeted on Thursday morning about an oxygen tanker being stopped by Haryana police from entering a refilling plant at Panipat. Her tweet, which tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top ministers as well as the health ministry, seemed to have worked and the tanker was allowed inside. “As I tweet, an oxygen tanker is outside the gate of Air Liquide Panipat plant at IOCL and he is not being allowed inside Haryana Police are stopping it and not letting the oxygen out of Haryana. Need urgent intervention,” she tweeted, tagging Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Railway and Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, Haryana Chief Minister and Union Health Ministry.
Minutes later, she updated saying the tanker has been allowed inside. “Update: The driver has just been allowed inside and hopefully the oxygen will be sent out soon,” she tweeted this time tagging just Modi, Goyal and Singh. She went on to demand a quick corridor for movement of oxygen trucks. “Further to my earlier tweet an appeal once again to the government to please tag oxygen tanks as ambulances and enable quick green corridor movement,” she tweeted. Earlier in the day, she had tweeted: “While we ramp up production and redirect IND supply of #Oxygen, the URGENT factor is to allow free movement of tankers across state borders. Govt pls tag O2 tankers as AMBULANCES!! Create a green corridor 4 tanker movement with CRPF escort The situation is CRITICAL for Hospitals & Drs.” The 3,14,835 new cases in India on Thursday were more than the previous one-day gain of 3,14,312, reported by the US in December.
The rise has overwhelmed hospitals who have reported low oxygen stocks. The unfolding disaster led to the national capital’s largest hospital chain, Max, earlier this week sought help from the Delhi High Court, which expressed “shock and dismay” over the government’s neglect and directed the administration to “beg, borrow, steal” to ensure adequate oxygen supply for hospitals. Another private hospital, Saroj Super Speciality on Thursday approached the Delhi High Court to secure oxygen supplies. Over the past one month, the COVID-19 outbreak in India has exploded. As cases worldwide reach new weekly records, 40 per cent of the infections are coming from India. The country has surpassed 1.56 crore total infections, second most after the United States. The death toll has also begun to climb precipitously. Government data showed 2,104 deaths, and an average of more than 1,300 people dying of the virus every day for the past week. That is less than at the worst points of the pandemic in the US or Brazil, but it is a steep increase from just two months ago, when fewer than 100 people in India were dying daily.