A special train carrying liquid medical oxygen made its first journey on Thursday from Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam to Maharashtra. Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted a video of the train preparing to leave the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam facility in Visakhapatnam.
The Ministry of Railways will run the “Oxygen Express” train from steel plants that produce oxygen to different parts of the country, reported NDTV. The decision to transport oxygen came when several states are facing an acute shortage of oxygen amid a massive surge in coronavirus infections.
“Railways transported essential commodities and kept the supply chain intact even during the lockdown last year and continue to serve the nation in times of emergencies,” the ministry said in a statement. “This time, the movement of ‘Oxygen Express’ towards different parts of the country will help patients and different hospitals.”
The Railways had announced its decision to run the special trains to supply oxygen to states and Union Territories that are facing an acute shortage of oxygen supply on Sunday. It had said that a green corridor was being set up for the movement of these “Oxygen Express” trains. They will supply liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders.
India’s healthcare infrastructure is reeling under the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic as thousands of new coronavirus cases emerge every day. This has led to a chronic shortage of oxygen supplies, beds and timely medical care.
The Centre on Thursday ordered that no restrictions should be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between states as hospitals across the country are scrambling to shore up supplies during the second wave of the pandemic. The home ministry’s order was issued under the Disaster Management Act, which states that no restrictions can be imposed on the inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods.
So far, two hospitals in Delhi have moved the High Court asking for help in getting oxygen supplies. On Thursday, Saroj Super Specialty Hospital in Delhi’s Rohini area moved the court seeking urgent supply of oxygen to critical coronavirus patients. On Wednesday, Max Hospitals sought urgent help to tide over the oxygen shortage it was facing in six of its hospitals in the Capital.
During this hearing, the Delhi High Court said that it was “shocked and dismayed” to see that the Centre does not seem to be mindful of the “extremely urgent” need of medical oxygen in the country to treat Covid-19 patients.
On Thursday morning, the country reported a record-breaking 3,14,835 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections to 1,59,30,965 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is also the highest ever single-day rise in cases reported by any country so far. With 2,104 deaths, the toll rose to 1,84,657.
Maharashtra is the worst affected state by the coronavirus pandemic in the country. On Thursday, Maharashtra recorded 67,103 new cases, pushing the state’s tally to 40,94,840 since the pandemic began in January 2020. The toll rose by 568 to 62,479.