NEW DELHI (CU)_The Indian government on Sunday (18 April) banned the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, as part of the efforts to address the shortage of medical oxygen, as the number of active COVID-19 infections surpassed 1.8 million. Meanwhile, initiatives have been launched to expedite the process of installing 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants in public health facilities, while a special train service has been launched to transport the life-saving gas.
The South Asian nation reported a record single-day rise of over 260,000 infections, while officials in the worst-hit states, including Maharashtra and Delhi, have revealed that they were running short of oxygen, as well as ventilators, beds and medicine. Meanwhile, Union Minister Harsh Vardhan said the government is providing all possible support to ensure uninterrupted supply of oxygen and COVID-19 vaccines, while also expanding the production of the Remdesivir drug.
As part of these efforts, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla announced a ban on the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, excluding a selected group of industries, from 22 April, until further notice. Accordingly, the pharmaceutical industry, as well as petroleum refineries, nuclear energy facilities, steel plants, food and water purification and waste water treatment plants and a few other industries would not be subject to the ban. However, those sectors which are not included in the permissible list have been recommended to either import oxygen or set up their own Air Separator Units.
Of the 162 PSA plants funded by the federal government, 33 have already been installed in some of the worst-hit areas, while 59 more plants will be installed by the end of April, and 80 more by May-end. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Railways said it will run a special train service called “Oxygen Express” over the next few days, in order to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country.
According to the health ministry, over the last 12 days, the infection rate has doubled to 16.69 per cent, with 10 states reporting nearly 80 per cent of the new infections.