'False narrative' that nothing was done after first COVID wave, says Centre; lists steps for augmenting oxygen, Remdesivir production

New Delhi, Apr 27 (PTI) The Centre has refuted suggestions that 'nothing' was done after the first wave of coronavirus pandemic and it was caught unawares by the second surge, asserting that all-out efforts are being made on a war footing to make available enough oxygen to hospitals and augment the production of Remdesivir.

This was stated in an affidavit submitted before the Supreme Court by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the case related to the “distribution of essential supplies and services during the pandemic”, official sources said.

The MHA said there has been a “false narrative” that after the onset of the COVID pandemic, during its peak impact and thereafter “the nation did nothing and is caught unawares in the second surge”.

Referring to the sudden scarcity of medical oxygen in some parts of the country following a surge in COVID-19 cases, the MHA said the central government started all-out efforts to augment oxygen resources and procure more and more oxygen from all available sources.

These supplies available at any given time in the country are to be distributed to all the states, especially those which are critically burdened with a high number of active COVID cases, in a balanced manner.

It is submitted that the sheer magnitude of this unprecedented surge itself brought with it certain inbuilt limitations in terms of available resources which need to be professionally augmented and utilised.

The central government, with active and constant supervision and direct involvement of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, is augmenting the oxygen supply on a war footing evolving and implementing innovative measures, the MHA said.

Resultantly, more and more medical oxygen is generated and is being made available every day, keeping in mind not just existing requirements but potential future requirements.

These efforts include augmenting oxygen supply from all available sources within India and also importing oxygen from other countries using not only the diplomatic channels but also personal intervention of the political executive, it submitted.

Referring to Remdesivir, the MHA said due to the sudden surge in COVID cases recently, the demand in the country for Remdesivir Injection required for COVID-19 therapy has suddenly increased.

The ministry submitted that there was very limited demand for Remdesivir during the preceding months, immediately before the second surge, due to which the production levels of the seven companies manufacturing it fell.

The total installed capacity of the seven licensed manufacturers of Remdesivir as on April 1, 2021 was 38.80 lakh vials per month but actual production was around 27 lakh vials per month.

In light of the increased demand for Remdesivir and its shortages reported from certain parts of the country, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has immediately approved 31 additional manufacturing sites on April 12, 2021 in addition to 22 manufacturing sites of these seven manufacturers to enable them to enhance their manufacturing capacity.

Presently, there are a total of 53 manufacturing sites of the seven manufacturers of Remdesivir approved by CDSCO which are having a total production capacity sufficiently expandable to around 90 lakh vials of Remdesivir injectable formulations per month.

Immediately upon the second surge, several of the additional sites of the seven companies have already started production and the current production is about 74 lakh vials per month.

The MHA submitted that the remaining additional sites of the said seven companies who have been permitted to manufacture Remdesivir are expected to get operational by May 2021, bringing the total production capacity to about 90 lakh vials per month.

Generally, it takes about 20 days for each batch to be manufactured, tested and released for supply and there has been a constant increase in production and supply of Remdesivir on a war footing, it said. PTI ACB SKL RT RT