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COVID-19: India to import 50,000 MT of medical oxygen

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New Delhi, Apr 15: In view of a spike in COVID-19 cases, a tender will be floated to import 50,000 metric tonnes (MT) of medical oxygen, while its sources and production capacity has been mapped to match the requirement of 12-high burden states, the Centre said on Thursday.

 COVID-19: India to import 50,000 MT of medical oxygen

The Union Health Ministry has been directed to finalise the tender for the same and also explore possible sources for import identified by the missions of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), it said.

"Also, based on the mapping exercise undertaken, 4,880 MT, 5,619 MT and 6,593 MT have been indicated to these 12 states -- Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan -- for meeting their projected demand as on 20th April, 25th April and 30th April, respectively," a statement issued by the health ministry said.

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The health ministry is issuing orders in this regard and the same would be notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), it said.

The number of new coronavirus cases in India hit a record daily high with over 2 lakh infections being reported in a day, while the active cases surpassed the 14- lakh mark, according to health ministry data. With the new cases, the total tally of cases in the country rose to 1,40,74,564.

A meeting of the Empowered Group-2 (EG2) on COVID-19 was held on Thursday to review the availability of essential medical equipment and oxygen, and the decisions were taken, the statement said.

EG2 is monitoring the situation of demand and supply of medical oxygen continuously to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to support its uninterrupted supply, it added.

Medical oxygen is a critical component in the treatment of COVID-affected patients and there has been increasing demand for medical oxygen, especially from these 12 states which have a high-burden of active coronavirus cases.

While the demand in Maharashtra is expected to be beyond available production capacity of the state, states like Madhya Pradesh do not have any production capacity to meet their demand for medical oxygen, the health ministry said.

Besides, there is a trend of increasing demand in other oxygen producing states such as Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, it highlighted.

To give clarity and assurance to the states on oxygen to be supplied over the next few weeks, a mapping exercise was undertaken jointly by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, the health ministry, the Ministry of Steel, various critically affected states and the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), the statement said.

Besides them, key stakeholders, including representatives of oxygen manufacturers and the All India Industrial Gas Manufacturers Association (AIIGMA), were also part of the exercise done as per the directions of Empowered Group -2, it said.

"Sources of medical oxygen and their production capacity was mapped to match the requirement of states and an indicative framework has been developed to guide the states on the sources of medical oxygen, the statement said.

"Accordingly, 4,880 MT, 5,619 MT and 6,593 MT have been indicated to these 12 states for meeting their projected demand as on 20th April, 25th April and 30th April, respectively. MoHFW (health ministry) is issuing orders in this regard and the same would be notified by MHA," it said.

The empowered group had directed the health ministry to identify another 100 hospitals in far-flung locations for consideration of sanction for installation of Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants, according to the statement.

PSA plants manufacture oxygen and help hospitals become self-sufficient in their requirement for medical oxygen while also reducing the burden on the national grid for its supply.

Also, 162 PSA plants sanctioned under PM-CARES are being closely reviewed for early completion to enhance self-generation of oxygen in hospitals especially in remote areas, the statement said.

"In view of increasing demand for medical oxygen, EG2 decided to float a tender for import of 50,000 MT of medical oxygen. MOHFW has been directed to finalise the tender for the same and also explore possible sources for import identified by the missions of MEA," it said.

The Centre has asked states to make rational use of medical oxygen and ensure there is no wastage while stressing that there is sufficient stock of oxygen in the country.

"Along with the ramped up production of the oxygen manufacturing units and the surplus stocks available, the present availability of oxygen is sufficient," the health ministry said.

Besides, states have been asked to set up control rooms to ensure smooth supply of oxygen to the districts according to need and review requirement of cylinders, tankers etc. it said.

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