COVID-19: Rajnath asks DPSUs, DRDO, OFB to provide oxygen, beds to state govts

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New Delhi, Apr 20 (PTI) As India battles a massive spike in coronavirus cases, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday asked defence public sector undertakings, DRDO and Ordnance Factory Board to work on a war footing to provide oxygen cylinders and extra beds to various state governments at the earliest besides extending all required help.

At a virtual meeting with top defence brass, Singh also announced granting emergency financial powers to the three services and other defence agencies to make necessary procurement to enhance medical infrastructure in view of the pandemic, officials said.

They said the three forces and other agencies have been asked to identify their requirement to deal with the situation and told that approvals will be given for the procurement.

The meeting was attended by Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Army Staff Gen M M Naravane, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) Surgeon Vice Admiral Rajat Datta and DRDO Chairman G Satheesh Reddy.

Following an earlier communication between Singh and Gen Naravane, it was decided that the Army would offer treatment to civilians in its medical facilities, wherever possible and the force would even get in touch with top leadership of the states to understand their requirements.

Officials said the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has already shared with private industry its oxygen generation technology that was developed for use on board Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.

India has witnessed a massive spike in coronavirus infections with the country recording over two lakh COVID-19 cases daily in the last five days.

In view of rapid surge in infections, India is facing an acute shortage of hospital beds, oxygen, essential drugs.

'Singh was also informed that based on the on-board oxygen generation technology developed for LCA Tejas, a 1000 litre/minute capacity oxygen generation plants technology has been given to the industry,' the defence ministry said.

It said the Uttar Pradesh government has already placed order of five such plants with the industry.

The ministry said DRDO chairman Reddy said in the meeting that more oxygen producing plants can be supplied by the industry to cater to the requirements of the hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

He further said that SpO2 (blood oxygen saturation) based supplemental oxygen delivery system developed for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas can be used for COVID patients.

'The product, he said, will be available soon in the market from the industry as per technology provided by DRDO,' the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said Singh asked the armed forces to be in close contact with the civil administrations across the country and to provide any required assistance.

Following a separate review of the coronavirus situation by the defence secretary, the ministry instructed 67 hospitals run by cantonment boards across the country to ensure medical services to cantonment residents as well as those from outside.

Giving details about Singh's meeting, the ministry said work is going on to set up a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, 750-bed hospital in Varanasi and 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad.

In the meeting, the defence minister also discussed ways to contain the spread of COVID-19 among the Armed forces personnel and the officers and staff working in ministry.

He focused on COVID appropriate behaviour at the workplace, stressing on the need to strictly follow all the COVID protocols such as wearing masks at all times and maintaining physical distancing. PTI MPB ZMN