The chances of a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic hitting India are “very real”, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Saturday, adding that the country needed to be prepared for it.
Kejriwal recalled the grave oxygen crisis that Delhi saw during the second wave of Covid-19 and provided details of his government’s efforts to ensure adequate supply of the live-saving gas.
“Delhi is not an industrial state, it does not produce oxygen on its own,” Kejriwal said during a press briefing. “Usually Delhi’s hospitals require a small quantity of oxygen, which comes from outside. But during the Covid-19 crisis, Delhi’s oxygen requirement shot up. We needed 700 metric tonnes per day amid the crisis, as against 150 metric tonnes in normal times. We did not have the production capacity or storage tankers at that time.”
The Delhi chief minister announced that 22 plants had been set up at nine hospitals in the city to generate more than 17 metric tonnes of oxygen per day. They began functioning on Saturday.
Kejriwal added that six oxygen plants set up by the Centre in Delhi had also begun operating. The Delhi government was planning to set up 17 more plants by July, the Delhi chief minister added.
The chief minister said: “This was the second wave for the country, but fourth for Delhi. But we were able to rein it in with sacrifices of health workers and citizens.”
Delhi and several other parts of the country struggled with a grave oxygen crisis in the second wave of the pandemic. The acute shortages of medical oxygen as well as medicines forced families and friends of patients to plead for help on social media. The Opposition heavily criticised the Centre for the shortages of medical supplies and courts had also pulled up the Centre.
The country’s oxygen crisis could have been partly diffused had India utilised the past year to create localised solutions in the form of small-scale oxygen generation plants within hospitals on a war footing.
It takes just four to six weeks to install a Pressure Swing Adsorption oxygen generator at a hospital, said industry players and government officials. The average cost comes to just Rs 1.25 crore, based on the Centre’s outlay of Rs 201 crore for 162 oxygen plants.
But an investigation by Scroll.in showed that the central government took eight months to float a tender, and six months later, PSA oxygen plants were operational in only five of the 60 hospitals we called. Hours after the report was published, the health ministry admitted only 33 of the 162 PSA oxygen plants it had commissioned had been installed.