Railways, IAF Pressed into Service for Smooth Supply of Oxygen: PM Modi Assures States Amid Covid Crisis

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday addressed the states’ concerns around availability of oxygen and its smooth supply to hospitals amid the ongoing shortage. In a high-level meeting today, he informed the chief ministers that the Railways and the Indian Air Force (IAF) have been pressed into service for fast and smooth supply of oxygen. PM Modi held a couple of meetings on Thursday, as well as, today with the industry players. There is a constant effort to maximise supplies and all the government departments and ministries are working together, he said. This was his fourth review meeting on oxygen in the last one week. Earlier ones were held on April 16,17 and 22.

The Railway Ministry has started ‘Oxygen Express’ trains to transport liquid medical oxygen tankers across the country amid demands from several states including Telangana, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. On Sunday, the Railways had announced it will run Oxygen Express over the next few days to transport oxygen across the country. Under the initiative, empty tankers will be loaded with liquid medical oxygen from Visakhapatnam, Jamshedpur, Rourkela and Bokaro.

Modi on Friday chaired a high-level meeting on the COVID-19 situation across the country. The meet was attended by the chief ministers of around 10 states that have been reporting the highest numbers of cases in the country. The prime minister stressed that there was a need for everyone to pull in the resources and work together as a unit to defeat the pandemic. He said that the Centre was working in coordination with the states and the health ministry has constantly been in touch with them. On a number of occasions, Central teams have been dispatched to states upon request, he said.

This was PM Modi’s third meeting in 5 months with chief ministers of states witnessing a worrying upsurge. Earlier, the review meetings were held on March 17 and April 8.

There has also been a lot of panic among the people with regards to lack of availability of medicines and injections required to treat COVID-19. Speaking on the issue, the prime minister asked the states to maintain a special vigil on hoarders and black marketeers. He said that every state should ensure that no oxygen tanker, whether it is meant for any state, is stopped or gets stranded. Several states, including Assam, have already said that any carrier of oxygen would be equated with the status of an ambulance and it will pass through the green corridor without being stopped.

The Prime Minister urged the states to set up a high-level co-ordination committee to carry oxygen to different hospitals of the state.

PM Modi yet again stressed on the importance of testing, treating and tracing. He urged the states to ensure the availability of mass testing because that is the only way to check the progress of the virus and its impact. He directed the states to conduct the vaccination drive on war footing.

India has administered vaccines to people above 45 years of age through its drive in the first three stages. India will launch another vaccination drive starting May 1, when all the adults will be eligible for vaccination.

Administration must prepare itself and follow all the safety protocols so that incidents of fire and gas leakage can be minimised, he further said. PM expressed his concern over the recent incidents including the one in Maharashtra this morning where about 15 people died because of a fire in a hospital which was treating Covid patients.

Several states are taking their own measures to break the chain including announcing of lockdown, weekend lockdown and restricted services. The onus will also have to be on the states to make sure that they control panic buying amongst people, he said.

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