Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday said the production of medical-grade oxygen was being doubled, reported The Hindu.

With nearly 20 lakh people currently infected with coronavirus in India, oxygen is running out, despite many states redirecting all industrial oxygen production to medical purposes. States such as Maharashtra and Delhi have complained about the shortage in oxygen supply. The government said on Thursday it would import 50,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen.

The Centre has sanctioned 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption plants in health facilities in all states, the Ministry of Health said. “These will augment medical oxygen capacity by 154.19 MT [metric tonnes],” it said.

Pressure Swing Adsorption plants manufacture oxygen and help hospitals become self-sufficient in their requirement for medical oxygen, according to PTI.

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Of the 162 plants that were sanctioned in 2020, the ministry said that 33 plants have been installed – five in Madhya Pradesh, four in Himachal Pradesh, three each in Chandigarh, Gujarat and Uttarakhand, two each in Bihar, Karnataka and Telangana, and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra, Puducherry, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Fifty-nine plants will be set up by end of April and 80 by the end of May, the ministry said. It is likely the ministry meant a total of 80 plants will be installed by end of May because the numbers would otherwise add up to 172 plants.

“The entire cost of 162 PSA Oxygen plants amounting to Rs 201.58 crore has been borne by the central government,” the ministry said. “This also includes [a] 7-year maintenance cost to start from 4th year onwards after three years of warranty.”

It said that the state governments have requested the Centre to install over 100 additional plants. This is also being sanctioned, the ministry added.

Meanwhile, India on Sunday reported 2,61,500 new coronavirus cases, an unprecedented figure since the pandemic broke out in January 2020, to take its tally to 1,47,88,109. With 1,501 deaths, the toll jumped to 1,77,150. The country has recorded over 2 lakh infections for the fourth consecutive day.