COVID-19: Maha to set up plants at hospitals to produce oxygen

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Mumbai, Apr 19 (PTI) With the demand for medical oxygen on the rise in Maharashtra in view of the COVID-19 surge, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Monday pitched for setting up plants to produce the gas at hospitals itself, an official statement said.

Pawar, who held a meeting to discuss the pandemic situation in the state, ordered district collectors and municipal commissioners to immediately undertake the process to make purchases of plants which can be set up in two to three weeks, it said.

Meanwhile, a decision was taken at the meeting to allow grocery shops to remain open from 7 am to 11 am only to curb the trend of people roaming outside through the day under the pretext of making purchases, the statement said.

Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope, Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, Medical Education Minister Amit Deshmukh and others also took part in this meeting.

Ajit Pawar, who holds the Finance ministry, instructed the authorities to procure maximum oxygen from paper, steel and petroleum industries, fertiliser companies, and refineries to address its shortage in treating COVID-19 patients.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Tope said Maharashtra's daily consumption of oxygen at present is 1,550 metric tonnes (of which 300 metric tonnes is procured from other states every day).

He said problems may arise if the number of cases continues to go up.

'The future scenario on the presumption of continuous rise in the cases was discussed at the meeting today. We can produce oxygen through pressure swing absorption and air separation unit technologies too. Collectors should take decisions immediately to use these technologies,' Tope added.

The health minister also said the Centre has given permissions to seven Remdesivir-making companies to set up plants at 20 places to scale up the production of the drug crucial in treating COVID-19 patients.

Tope said if pharma companies in Maharashtra are willing to produce the drug and want permission for the same, they can be given a sub-license and produce Remdesivir for these seven companies.

'Several avenues for increasing Remdesivir production were discussed during the meeting,' Tope said.

Maharashtra had on Sunday reported the highest spike of 68,631 fresh coronavirus positive cases in a day while 503 patients succumbed to the infection, taking the tally to 38,39,338 and the toll to 60,473, as per the state health department. PTI ENM NSK NSK