COVID Panic Spikes Nationwide Oxygen Demand

By: Sashwata Saha
09 Jul 2020 Class of 2020, Kolkata

Kolkata: As the number of COVID-19 cases rise around India, State governments, fearing a second wave of infection, are buying huge amounts of oxygen for their hospitals. If this goes on, medical oxygen suppliers are predicting a shortage of supply soon.


Medical experts, government health officials and manufacturers all agree that due to oxygen’s emergence as a key element in treating COVID-19 patients, its demand has now gone through the roof. Doctors are releasing public service announcement videos warning against the unsupervised use of oxygen.


Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade said to The Indian Express, “At the moment, much less than 10% of COVID patients require oxygen,” before adding, “The Centre has allowed the conversion of five lakh industrial oxygen cylinders to medical ones. Mohapatra also heads the Central panel that monitors the nationwide supply of medical oxygen for COVID treatment. 


However, the fact remains that some 4,00,000 to 5,00,000 oxygen cylinders are currently in use at various COVID hospitals across India. Meanwhile, the national daily oxygen requirement has grown up from 900 tonnes in December, 2019 to 1,300 tonnes in July 2020. In May alone, when the pandemic was gaining steam, the Centre arranged for 1.03 lakh oxygen cylinders to be distributed. 


“It is not just the government that has exhausted our supplies,” said Sameeran Das, the proprietor of DC Medical Systems, Kolkata to Newshound India Foundation. “We supply to private hospitals, NGOs and private individuals as well. Only a few days ago, a TMC politician came and bought six cylinders for their personal use! We aren’t allowed to sell more than two cylinders to an individual.” Das refused to give the name of said politician.


As the supply of oxygen cylinders fall, the governments are now looking towards concentrators for supply. “We have ordered 11,000 cylinders and 4,580 concentrators, and more than 50 per cent of them have arrived,” said Sanjay Goel, MD, Delhi Tourism & Transportation Development Corporation, and the man-in-charge of COVID procurement at a press conference. While cylinders need to be refilled once empty, oxygen concentrators can directly tap into the atmosphere to procure oxygen.


India’s battle with COVID-19 has seen 3.67 lakh people infected by and 21,129 succumb to the disease. India has overtaken Russia and now sits behind the USA and Brazil as the third-worst COVID affected country in the world.  


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