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Coronavirus: Amid spurting COVID-19 cases, Delhi witnesses surge in demand for oxygen concentrators

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New Delhi, Apr 22: Whether the expensive oxygen concentrator or the humble steam inhaler, people in Delhi are going all out shopping for both "prevention and cure" in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases, leading to demands for these medical devices hitting the roof.

COVID

With reports of hospitals gasping for oxygen and patients waiting for beds, people are seen making a beeline to chemist shops and returning home with bags full of "medical essentials", including oximeters, thermometers, oxygen cans etc.

"Last year, we were buying masks, hand sanitiser and infrared thermometers. This year, thanks to the ferocious second wave, we are buying oximeters, oxygen sprays and are even considering buying the super-expensive oxygen concentrator for the family," said city-based businessman Dinesh Thappa (45).

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The fear is reflecting on the market also as many chemists are running out of their stocks of oximeters and oxygen concentrators and witnessing an "unprecedented hike" in the demand for steam inhalers and infrared thermometers. "Oximeters and thermometers are selling at a rate of knots. Right now, I do not have oximeters in my shop. There is a good 60-70 per cent shortage, which was not the case even last year," Gaurav Arora of the Kiran Medicos in Ramesh Nagar said.

He said he has placed an order for oximeters, but it will take time for the supply to arrive. Delhi recorded 24,638 fresh COVID-19 cases and 249 deaths due to the viral disease on Wednesday while the positivity rate stood at 31.28 per cent, meaning almost every third sample tested positive, amid a growing clamour for oxygen and hospital beds in the city.

Only 18 ICU beds for COVID-19 patients were available in hospitals across Delhi as of 11 pm Wednesday, according to government data. Yatendar Kumar, who runs a pharmacy store in Pragati Vihar, also confirmed a steep rise in the demand for oximeters and steam inhalers over the last few days.

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There is also a huge demand for preventive care online with Snapdeal's sale of steam inhalers going up by "three times" compared to the pre-pandemic levels. "We are seeing a significant rise in orders for devices, including oximeters, thermometers and electric steam inhalers.

In fact, the demand for electric steam inhalers has been high all throughout this period and is three times more than the pre-pandemic levels. "There is a four-time spike in the search for kadha, giloy and amla juice and other immunity-boosting products. However, we are also working within the limitations of various lockdowns and prioritising delivery of the orders that users have said are required urgently," a Snapdeal spokesperson told reporters.

Amid reports of an oxygen shortage, the "oxygen concentrator" is drawing the attention of people, especially those from the affluent sections of the society. It is a portable medical device used for delivering oxygen to individuals with breathing-related disorders.

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It filters the surrounding air, compressing it to the required density, and then delivers purified medical-grade oxygen into a pulse-dose delivery system or continuous stream system to the patient. "If you have a patient who is not able to breathe properly and requires oxygen, and is unable to find space in the hospital, then a concentrator can be helpful," Dr Richa Sareen, consultant pulmonologist at the Fortis Hospital in Vasant Kunj here, said.

"The machine is charged via electricity and is small, concentrating the oxygen of the room, thereby providing hyper oxygen. With a cylinder, one has to refill the oxygen once it empties out. However, with a concentrator, the same is not required," she added.

Both Arora and Kumar said they have been getting queries on the availability of oxygen concentrators on a daily basis for the last few weeks. Arora said earlier, an oxygen concentrator used to cost around Rs 40,000-50,000 but now, with the surge in demand, the price has gone as high as Rs 1 lakh for some devices.

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