The Supreme Court on Saturday constituted a 12-member national task force to streamline oxygen allocation and to ensure that essential drugs and medicines are available to medical facilities, reported Bar and Bench.

The tasks force is also given the responsibility to formulate a methodology for allocating oxygen to the states and Union Territories on a scientific, rational and equitable basis. The task force will make recommendations on boosting oxygen supplies based on the current and projected demand of the life-saving gas.

It will also review whether the supplies allocated by the Centre has reached the states and Union Territories concerned as well as suggest measures to augment the availability of trained doctors, nurses and paramedical staff.

The Supreme Court’s decision came at a time when India is facing an acute shortage of oxygen. Several states, including Delhi, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, have asked the Centre to increase the quota of oxygen allocated to them as coronavirus cases are rising at an unprecedented scale.

The members of the task force include medical experts and doctors from across the country. Union Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba will act as the convenor of the task force, the court said in its order.

The members include Devender Singh Rana, the chairperson of the board of management of Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital; Dr JV Peter, the director of Vellore’s Christian Medical College; virologist Gagandeep Kang and Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, the chairperson and executive director of Bengaluru’s Narayana Healthcare.

The court said that the task force can use the Centre’s resources for consultation and information, and can also form one or more sub-groups on specialised areas to assist the panel, before it makes the final recommendations, reported Live Law.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said that the task force was formulated to allow the decision-makers in the government to have inputs beyond finding ad-hoc solutions to the present problems.

“The rationale for constituting a task force at a national level is to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic based on scientific and specialised domain knowledge,” the order said. “We expect that the leading experts in the country shall associate with the work of the task force both as members and resource persons. This will facilitate a meeting of minds and the formulation of scientific strategies to deal with an unprecedented human crisis.”

The court also said that the likely future course of the pandemic needs to be considered. “Estimating projected needs is crucial to ensure that the country remains prepared to meet future eventualities, which will cause a demand for oxygen, medicines, infrastructure, manpower and logistics,” the court said.

The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in India has left hospitals overwhelmed and medical workers exhausted. Social media is full of desperate people seeking medical oxygen, hospital beds and other necessities.

India on Saturday recorded 4,187 coronavirus-related deaths, the highest ever since the pandemic broke out last year, as a fierce second wave continued to overwhelm the country’s hospitals. With this, the toll rose to 2,38,270, data from the health ministry showed. The country recorded 4,01,078 new cases in 24 hours, taking the tally of infections in the country to 2,18,92,676. This is the fourth time since May 1 when the count rose by more than 4 lakh.