Punjab shuts iron, steel industries to divert oxygen for medical use

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Chandigarh, Apr 24 (PTI) With many hospitals reporting a shortage of oxygen amid spiralling coronavirus cases, the Punjab government on Saturday ordered the closure of operations at the state's iron and steel industry to divert oxygen for medical use.

Oxygen along with LPG is used in induction, arc furnaces and rolling mills to cut and shape the iron and steel items to be used by different industry verticals. Iron and steel units are mostly concentrated in Ludhiana and Mandi Gobindgarh.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also ordered immediate establishment of oxygen control rooms at the state and district-level.

Ordering closure of industrial operations at iron and steel plants, said the CM in a statement, adding that the state government will convey its decision to the Centre.

The move has come hours after six patients died at a private hospital in Amritsar due to oxygen shortage.

Taking stock of the situation, the CM said the current allocation of oxygen to Punjab is not sufficient to meet its needs and said he has already taken up the matter with the Centre, seeking an increase in quota on an urgent basis.

Sudden influx of patients from neighbouring states has put an added burden on the oxygen requirements of Punjab, the CM noted.

The CM also asked for a feasibility report from the Power Department on the use of thermal plants for providing oxygen for medical use.

Punjab has witnessed a sharp increase in demand for oxygen over the past a few days. The demand for oxygen currently stands at 250 metric tonnes per day and is further expected to go up to 300 MT in coming days on account of spiralling COVID cases.

Reacting to reports of increase in the price of oxygen by suppliers, Amarinder Singh asked Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation to discuss, negotiate and settle the pricing with bulk suppliers and inform the Principal Secretary, Medical Education and Research, on the final decision.

The CM also ordered Punjab Health Systems Corporation to procure 100 more oxygen concentrators, including 50 approved earlier, in addition to 234 already being used in COVID facilities, the statement said. PTI CHS VSD RDK RDK RDK