Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday said that the Centre had sent a mail to the Delhi government seeking details of deaths due to shortages of medical oxygen in the national capital during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

This came a day after Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia claimed that his government has not received any such letter.

“Here is the copy of the mail sent by my ministry to the Delhi government on July 26,” Mandaviya tweeted, sharing the screenshot of the email. “It’s not too late yet! You can send the data till 13th August so that we can answer the question to Parliament. Please review with your officers and send the necessary data as soon as possible.”

In the last week of July, the Centre had asked the states and Union Territories to share data on deaths due to lack of oxygen.

In his tweet on Wednesday, Mandaviya also shared a copy of the questions asked to the health ministry. It has to respond before the Monsoon Session of the Parliament ends on August 13.

The health ministry has also been asked to respond to questions by MPs in Lok Sabha about fatalities due to lack of medicines and if the government has initiated an inquiry into such deaths.

On Tuesday, Sisodia had said that the Delhi government will share the details about the number of deaths that had taken place in the Covid-19 second wave due to oxygen shortages even if the Centre did not seek details.

He also alleged that the Delhi government had formed a committee to investigate the matter but the Centre stopped it through Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal.

On July 20, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar had told the Parliament that states did not specifically report any deaths due to oxygen shortages. Opposition leaders and health experts derided the Centre for making such a claim, saying that the response was rather bureaucratic and reflected its denial mode.

On Tuesday, Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Lav Agarwal had said that only one state had reported a “suspected death” due to oxygen shortages, reported ANI. He, however, did not mention which state he was referring to.

Oxygen shortages

India struggled with a grave oxygen crisis in the second wave of the pandemic in April-May. The shortages of the life-saving gas as well as medicines and hospital beds forced families and friends of patients to plead for help on social media. Hospitals sent out SOS messages as their oxygen stocks ran dangerously low.

On May 1, at least 12 patients died at the Batra Hospital in Delhi after the facility fell short of oxygen. The hospital had confirmed that the deaths had taken place because of lack of oxygen.

On April 23, at least 20 patients under critical care died at Jaipur Golden Hospital in North West Delhi. The hospital cited a dip in oxygen pressure and approached the High Court to seek help in maintaining continuous supply.