India Gasps for Oxygen
India Legal|May 10, 2021
Images of breathless people scrambling to hospitals have shocked the nation. As the macabre dance of death continues, what is obvious is the lack of planning in every sphere by our bumbling governments
Dr KK Aggarwal

CITIZENS of Delhi are going through a hellish existence in the wake of Covid-19. Many are dying due to deficient oxygen supply and insufficient number of medicines, hospital beds and medical devices like SPO2. People are not able to get even a basic medicine like paracetamol. What can be worse for human life than having to purchase oxygen just to breathe?

The pandemic is now raging with greater intensity than in 2020. The number of Covid-19 positive patients has exceeded 25,000 in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. As of April 2, 2021, the country reported an all-time high of 3,38,611 lakh cases, with the current doubling rate being prevalent in the last two weeks.

It is observed that the test positivity rates (TPR) are rising continually, with around 1/3rd of all districts in the country having a positivity rate of more than 35 percent. TPR was more than 13 percent on April 15, 2021. According to medical estimates, around 15-20 percent of these patients could require hospital admissions, with a quarter of them needing specialised ICU care. This translates to a requirement of roughly 50,000 beds daily in the country. It is evident that the healthcare infrastructure is on the verge of an imminent collapse.

DEFICIENT OXYGEN SUPPLY

In almost all hospitals, the availability of oxygen has dropped dramatically. This has led to oxygen pressure being reduced in order to keep it going longer. But this has resulted in serious patients having a drastic fall in their oxygen levels, leading to many fatalities.

In an order on April 2, the Delhi High Court in Rakesh Malhotra versus GNCT of Delhi, held: “9. We hope and expect that State of Rajasthan to honour the orders passed by the Central Government, as well as orders passed by this Court. Any intervention by anyone in the plan put in place by the Central Government for the supply of medical oxygen in the country, at this stage, would tantamount to endangering hundreds of human lives, if not more. “10. It serves no purpose for anyone to cause any obstruction in the smooth flow of much-needed Medical Oxygen. Stoppage of tankers by one State would have snowballing effect, and would eventually adversely impact the concerned State as well. Since the Central Government is mindful of the needs of all the States and Union Territories, and the distribution plan has been worked out by taking into account the needs of all the States and Union Territories, if any concerns arise before any State, they should be addressed to the Central Government, for which the Central Government has already created a Virtual Central Control Room – on which the Nodal Officers of all the States are represented.... “14. One other aspect that we would like to deal with today itself is with regard to the non-availability and consequent black marketing of Oxygen cylinders which is taking place rampantly in the NCT of Delhi.”

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