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New Delhi: Centre said on Sunday that it has prohibited the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers forthwith from 22 April in wake of a surge in its demand for covid-19 patients in hospitals.

The decision was taken considering the recommendation of inter-ministerial Empowered Group (EG-II) mandated by government to manage requisite supplies of medical equipment, drugs including medical oxygen across the country in the wake of resurgence of covid-19 cases.

However, some industries have been exempted from the order such as Ampoules & Vials, Pharmaceutical, Petroleum refineries, steel plants, nuclear energy facilities, Oxygen cylinder manufacturers, Waste water treatment plants, Food & water purification and Process Industries which require uninterrupted operation of furnaces, processes, etc. as approved by respective State governments.

Keeping in view the rapid rise in COVID cases and resultant rapid demand for medical Oxygen, particularly in high-burden States of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, etc., the EG-ll reviewed the supply of oxygen for industrial use in order to divert the same to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen in the country and save precious lives.

“Accordingly, EG II has recommended to prohibit the supply of Oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers forthwith from 22.04.2021 till further orders, with e exception of nine specified industries. I urge you to issue necessary Instructions to the authorities concerned in your State to ensure compliance to the decision of EG-ll and take necessary measures to prohibit supply of Oxygen for industrial purposes, except those exempted nine industries," said Ajay Bhalla, Home Secretary in a letter to the chief secretary of states.

The government said that there has been a significant surge in the demand for medical oxygen. Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has conveyed that this has already reached about 60% of the daily tot Oxygen production, and is expected to rise further.

Rajesh Bhushan union health secretary said that while every effort is being made to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen, including augmenting daily production and stocks and States/UTs are taking appropriate steps for optimum and rationalized utilisation of available stock of oxygen, the present trend necessitates additional measures.

“The matter has been deliberated by the OPIIT with all the stakeholders and after due deliberations, it has been considered prudent to restrict industrial usage of oxygen to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen," Bhushan said.

The health secretary further said that while every effort is being made to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen, including augmenting daily production and stocks and States/UTs are taking appropriate steps for optimum and rationalized utilisation of available stock of oxygen, the present trend necessitates additional measures. The matter has been deliberated by the OPIIT with all the stakeholders and after due deliberations, it has been considered prudent to restrict industrial usage of oxygen to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen, the health secretary said.

Meanwhile, the situation in the country including the national capital is worsening in terms of beds and oxygen. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday said that the Delhi government is preparing beds on a large scale in Yamuna Sports Complex and Commonwealth Game Village. He said that he requests all three Municipal Corporations of Delhi (MCDs) to give maximum medical infrastructure and manpower so that we can use them properly. Kejriwal said, "To quote an estimate number, until mid-March, we were handling 100-150 corona positive cases per day. However, the report that was released yesterday disclosed about 24,000 cases per day; that is, within 24hrs, 24,000 cases. The number 24,000 is an extremely overwhelming one irrespective of how efficient the system is." “Beds are limited and it is natural that if such big numbers continue to ping in, a time might come when beds will not be available. If such pace continues then within the next 2-3 days, we will be facing a shortage of beds," he said.

Central government hospitals have around 10,000 beds in Delhi out of which 1,800 are COVID beds, and Kejriwal has appealed to the Centre to reserve at least 7,000 beds for COVID patients.

He added that within 2-3 days, the Delhi government will set up more than 6,000 oxygen beds and will arrange more high flow oxygen beds in the city. Delhi government also sought legal action against two hospitals for putting out wrong information on availability of COVID beds in the Delhi Corona app. These hospitals put out information saying that they have COVID beds available but later on denied patients saying no beds were available, the Delhi government said. Delhi government orders FIRs against four flights for carrying passengers from Maharashtra without valid RT PCR reports. All these actions have been taken under the Disaster Management Act.

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