COVID-19 crisis: Oxygen concentrators stuck at customs, says Delhi hospital; HC demands details from Centre

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The Delhi High Court on Monday told the Centre to provide details of oxygen concentrators that are stuck at the customs department for clearance as the National Capital continues to face a severe crunch of medical oxygen with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

However, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs has informed the court that there is no consignment is pending with the customs authorities. "However, social media has been flooded with the news that 3000 oxygen concentrators are lying with customs. We have again checked with our field formations and there is no such consignment lying with the customs," read the press release.

"However, since a photograph has also been put on Twitter, if anybody has information as to where it is lying, the same may be informed to us and we will take immediate action," the statement said.

According to Bar and Bench, the Delhi High Court's directive came after senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal told the court that 3,000 oxygen concentrators belonging to Max Hospital were stuck with the customs department.

Advocate Amit Mahajan, appearing for the Centre, replied that the number of concentrators is dynamic and 48,000 such consignments have been cleared. To this, the high court sought details on the oxygen concentrations awaiting clearance.

"The question we are asking is if the backlog of concentrators is lying. You're taking us round in circles," the bench remarked, reported Live Law.

"We can't say because after one hour nothing may be pending," the Centre replied.

The court said it is not satisfied with the government's answer and sought to know the status as of 12 pm on Monday.

According to Live Law, Mahajan said that 40,000 concentrators were cleared as of 30 April. The bench notes that this is "neither here nor there" and sought further details of pending concentrators.

"People should not lose lives for this -that there are resources but they are pending clearance," LiveLaw quoted the court as saying.

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As per NDTV several countries, including the US and the UK, have included oxygen concentrators as part of the medical aid being sent to India. However, they have been lying unused, awaiting clearance by authorities concerned.

This comes after the Delhi High Court on Saturday told the Centre that Delhi must receive its full quota of medical oxygen that day "by whatever means".

"Water has gone above the head. You have to arrange everything now. You have made the allocations. You have to fulfil it. Eight lives have been lost. We can't shut our eyes to it," the bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli had said.

The issue reached the Supreme Court, which ordered last evening that the deficit supply of oxygen to Delhi must be rectified on or before midnight today.

The high court on Monday sought the Centre's response on the request of the Delhi government for assistance from the Indian Army to set up and operate medical facilities in the National Capital.

The court directed the Centre to take instructions on the communication by the AAP government to the Union defence minister Rajnath Singh requesting the help of the army to set up hospitals with oxygenated and ICU beds to treat COVID-19 patients as well as supply cryogenic tanker for oxygen.

A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli was informed by the Delhi government counsel that the Delhi deputy chief minister has written to Singh on Sunday with its request for Army's help and it will take a day or two to fructify.

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said it would be grateful if armed forces could run medical facilities for COVID-19 patients with 10,000 beds and also requested the armed forces to provide cryogenic tankers for oxygen supply to the National Capital.

With inputs from PTI

Also See: 'Hospitals choking beds': Delhi HC directs COVID facilities to give info on daily admissions, discharges of patients

'Do some homework': Delhi HC comes down heavily on 'publicity interest litigations', imposes costs

Clarify stand on seeking Army's help to set up COVID-19 facilities in hospitals, Delhi HC tells Centre

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