COVID-19 second wave: Don't panic, use oxygen judiciously; Centre tells state govts and hospitals

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As India grappled with a raging second wave of the coronavirus pandemic with demands for medical oxygen increasing across the country, the Centre on Monday claimed that India has enough oxygen stock but the issue was its transportation.

Assuring that there is absolutely no need to panic for oxygen, MHA Additional Secretary Piyush Goyal during a press briefing on the COVID-19 situation said, "We are trying to resolve the issue of its transportation. The government is monitoring oxygen-carrying tankers on a real-time basis through GPS, making them available to hospitals as early as possible." He also appealed to hospitals to ensure judicious use of oxygen.

A total of 9103 MT of Medical Oxygen was produced on 24 April, Goyal said, adding "Our production capacity was only 7259 MT, but with the continuous and combined efforts of the Centre, State/UTs and Industries, the capacity has been increased."

The Centre also sought to allay people's fears, saying unnecessary panic is causing more harm than good. Stressing on the need for vaccination and observing COVID-19 appropriate behaviours, the government advised that it is time people start wearing masks inside their homes as well.

The government also pitched for expediting the pace of the vaccination drive and asserted that women can take the COVID-19 vaccine during menstruation as well.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also highlighted that more than 50 percent of the people aged above 60 years have been administered the first dose in 12 States and UTs.

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'Start wearing a mask at home'

Addressing a joint press conference with other senior functionaries, NITI Aayog Member-Health Dr VK Paul stressed that this was the time to be at home, wear a mask and not invite people. He also said that people should also avoid stepping out of their home unnecessarily.

"If there is COVID-19 positive case in the family, it is very important that the person wears a mask even indoors because the virus can spread to others in the home. I would rather go on to say that the time has come that we start wearing a mask at home even otherwise," Paul added.

On the other hand, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Lav Agarwal said many people have been found to be occupying hospital beds out of panic. Hospital admission should only be on the advice of doctors, he stressed.

The government also stressed continuing vaccination of people, even at a faster pace, and maintaining COVID-19 appropriate behaviours.

Lav Agarwal, citing two studies said that research has shown that if no physical distancing measures are followed, one person can infect 406 people in 30 days, the Centre said, adding that if physical exposure is reduced by 50 percent then one person can infect around 15 people during the period. "And if physical exposure is reduced by 75 percent, then one person can infect around 2.5 people in 30 days," he stated.

"It's time people start wearing masks inside their homes as well", he added.

'Use medical oxygen judicially'

Meanwhile, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria reiterated that the disease was "mild" and asked people to use medical oxygen judicially. "We have to reduce the number of cases and use hospital resources optimally. The judicious use of oxygen is very important. Right now, there is an unnecessary panic," he said.

"If the oxygen saturation is 94 percent or above, then there's no need to worry," Guleria added.

"Please remember, in this disease 85 percent of cases will have mild disease. The data from India and globally shows most have recovered from supportive treatment with no hospitalisation," said Guleria.

The AIIMS chief's comments came one day after he called the coronavirus a "mild disease" during a press conference on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the government also asked for immediate isolation of anyone who has symptoms related to COVID-19.

"Do not wait for the reports to come. Isolate. There is a chance that RT-PCR tests can be negative, just presume that the patient is COVID-19 positive if there are symptoms," said Guleria.

The Centre also said that rational use of appropriate prescription of drugs such as Remdesivir, Tocilizumab are critical in the fight against the pandemic.

It also said the effectiveness of Remdesivir on critical patients is "not well-established" yet as it suggested the use of other prescribed drugs.

As per The Hindu, Agrawal highlighted that the peaks in at least six states are bigger than their previous peaks in the first wave. "This is a matter of concern," he said. "Don't be anxious. Don't panic. Because of fearsome are occupying beds and oxygen resources, when it's not required. These should be used only if prescribed and we must follow guidelines and established clinical protocol norms."

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Agarwal also said that however much infrastructure is created, it will come under stress looking at the population of the country and added that it is important to curb the infection.

On the vaccination drive, Agarwal said of the 14.19 crore vaccine doses administered in India so far, 9.79 crore people aged 45 and above have got the first dose and 1.03 crore in the age bracket have received the second dose.

"We cannot let the pace of COVID-19 vaccination decline in the face of the emerging situation. In fact, vaccination should be escalated," said Paul.

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India's daily COVID-19 infection tally and toll have touched new peaks in the past few days. The country recorded 3,52,991 cases, the highest so far, taking the tally of cases to 1,73,13,163 while active cases have crossed the 28-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday. The death toll increased to 1,95,123 with a record 2,812 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

With inputs from PTI

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