Oxygen shortage threatens thousands in India as pandemic cases surge

Elias Hubbard
April 25, 2021

In the wake of the acute shortage of oxygen cylinders and concentrators for patients suffering from COVID-19, logistics and supply chain unicorn Delhivery said that it will be flying two planes from China to provide logistical support for importing oxygen concentrators.

"We are running on backup, waiting for supplies since morning", Fortis said.

On Friday, Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal pleaded for oxygen supplies on live TV, Reuters news agency reported. Jeff M Smith, a research fellow from The Heritage Foundation think-tank said it is well worth remembering that when NY and other parts of America were facing a public health emergency in late 2020 due to the pandemic, the Indian government removed an export ban on the active pharmaceutical ingredient hydroxychloroquine, despite stark criticism at home.

"A lockdown was the last weapon we had to deal with the coronavirus but with cases rising so quickly we had to use this weapon", he said.

The government started running Oxygen Express trains with tankers to meet the shortage at hospitals, Railroad Minister Piyush Goyal said.

Indian authorities scrambled Saturday to get oxygen tanks to hospitals where COVID-19 patients were suffocating amid the world's worst coronavirus surge, as the government came under increasing criticism for what doctors said was its negligence in the face of a foreseeable public health disaster.

A man is seen amid funeral pyres before they are lit to perform the last rites of patients who died of COVID-19, at a New Delhi crematorium on 24 April. Health experts say the death count is probably far higher.

Hospitals in Delhi asked the city's high court in the past week to order the state and federal governments to make emergency arrangements for medical supplies, mainly oxygen.

At the Jaipur Golden Hospital, a doctor told the BBC the government had allocated 3.6 tonnes of oxygen, to be delivered by 17:00 on Friday.

A man reacts next to the body of his father who died from COVID-19 at a crematorium in New Delhi India
A man reacts next to the body of his father who died from COVID-19 at a crematorium in New Delhi India

The government said Saturday it would exempt vaccines, oxygen and other oxygen-related equipment from customs duty for three months, in a bid to boost availability.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the United States is deeply concerned by the severe Covid outbreak in India.

"Most importantly, they should have looked at what was going on in other parts of the world and understood that it was a matter of time before they would be in a similar situation", Dr Kuppalli said.

She said the government should have used the a year ago, when the virus was more under control, to develop plans to address a surge and "stockpiled medications and developed public-private partnerships to help with manufacturing essential resources in the event of a situation like this".

She called the government's premature declarations of victory over the pandemic a "false narrative", which encouraged people to relax health measures when they should have continued strict adherence to physical distancing, wearing masks and avoiding large crowds.

The U.S.is maintaining its ban of exports of raw materials for manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines, despite India's request to lift the restrictions.

Now, with the death toll mounting, his Hindu nationalist government is trying to quell critical voices.

A Twitter spokesperson said it had powers to "withhold access to the content in India only" if the company determined the content to be "illegal in a particular jurisdiction". The interested people can contact the company at ceo@delhivery.com.

"We are working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and we will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India's health care heroes".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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