The Finance Ministry on Monday clarified that there was no pending consignment of 3,000 oxygen concentrators with the customs authorities.
The statement came hours after the Delhi High Court on Monday asked the Centre to provide details of oxygen concentrators that are stuck at the customs department for clearance. The court was hearing petitions related to the coronavirus situation and the supply of medical oxygen in the national Capital.
Advocate Krishnan Venugopal had told the High Court during the hearing earlier in the day that 3,000 oxygen concentrators belonging to the Max Hospital were stuck with the customs department, reported Bar and Bench. Advocate Amit Mahajan, appearing for the Centre, replied that the number of concentrators is dynamic and 48,000 such consignments have been cleared. To this, the High Court sought details on the oxygen concentrations waiting for clearance.
On Monday evening, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs said that social media has been flooded with the news that 3,000 oxygen concentrators are lying with Customs, and said it was not true.
“We have again checked with our field formations and there is no such consignment lying with the Customs,” it said. “However, since photograph has also been put on Twitter, if anybody has information as to where it is lying, the same may be informed to us and we will take immediate action.”
Soon after, the agency tweeted again tagging a report on NDTV that showed an image of a consignment. “With reference to [the] news item, consignment shown in image was found to be import of 842 packets from Hong Kong by Indigo flight on 30.04.2021 which includes 300 oxygen concentrators and cleared by Delhi Customs within hours,” it tweeted. “Any other pending Covid-19 supplies may be brought to notice.”
A devastating second wave of coronavirus in India has led to widespread shortages of medical oxygen and medicines in Delhi. On Sunday, a children’s hospital was among at least three institutions that raised an alarm that it was running out of oxygen. On April 30, as many as 12 patients, including a senior doctor, had died at Batra Hospital due to oxygen shortage.
The Delhi High Court had warned the Centre of contempt proceedings if it failed to supply the 490 metric tonnes of oxygen a day allocated to the national Capital. The Supreme Court, which has taken up a suo motu case on the handling of the pandemic, directed the Centre on Sunday to rectify the oxygen problem that several Delhi hospitals are facing on or before Monday.
During Monday’s hearing, the High Court also sought the Centre’s response on the request of the Delhi government for assistance from the Indian Army to set up and operate medical facilities in the national Capital.
The High Court also took note of amicus curiae Rajashekar Rao’s advice that hospitals should update their oxygen status four times a day. Rao also suggested that the capacity of refilling stations in Delhi need to be increased to meet the rising demand. Petitioners had complained that refilling was taking too much time. The court said it will pass an order the next day.
The High Court asked the Bar Council of India to check with the Delhi government if a hospital in Dwarka, which has 75 beds, can be turned into a Covid-19 facility, reported India Legal. This facility might be converted for lawyers and members of the Bar Council.
On Sunday, Delhi reported over 400 deaths for the second consecutive day, registering 407 fatalities. This took the toll to 16,966 in the city since the pandemic first broke out in March 2020. Delhi also registered 20,394 new coronavirus cases, pushing the overall infection count 11,94,946.