As virus cases surge, Punjab seeks more oxygen tankers from Centre

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Chandigarh, May 3 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Monday appealed to the Centre for more oxygen tankers, saying the state did not have enough tankers to transport oxygen for seriously ill Covid-19 patients.

At a Covid-19 review meeting here, the chief minister said the state urgently needs more tankers as it currently has only 15 at its disposal, with two more likely to come in by Tuesday.

These are not enough to handle the requirement for transporting the oxygen supplies coming in from other states, the CM said, according to a government release here.

Punjab has an allocation of 195 metric tonne oxygen from various plants in other states, but the actual supply received over the past seven days has been around 110-120 MT daily, which has also been erratic, Singh said.

During the period, the number of patients on oxygen support has gone up from 4,000 to around 9,000, and though the state government's steps to monitor and streamline supplies through its control rooms has helped in keeping things stable, the situation remains fluid and a matter of concern, he said.

The current consumption of oxygen in the state is more than 225 MT daily, while the average increase in demand every day is around 15-20 per cent, he said.

Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan told the meeting that in addition to the shortage of trucks available with transporters in the state, the fact that a tanker takes around 4-5 days to bring the 90 MT quota allocation from a plant in Jharkhand's Bokaro has made things worse.

Unless the state gets more tankers, the situation may aggravate, she added. In addition to 90 MT from Bokaro, the state's current allocation is 60 MT from a plant in Baddi in Himachal Pradesh, 20 MT from Panipat in Haryana, 15 MT from Roorkee in Uttarakhand and 10 MT from Dehradun.

Besides, around 80 MT is generated daily within the state, and steps are being taken to increase production on a continuous basis, she said, adding, however, that this was not sufficient to meet the increasing demand.

Medical Education Minister OP Soni said more oxygen cylinders were also needed at government hospitals to meet the growing requirement.

Meanwhile, the state government decided to raise the rate as per the present market rates for transportation of the oxygen from the manufacturers and suppliers outside the state as well as from the air separation and refilling units within the state.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting, chaired by the chief secretary here.

The development assumes significance as the state was facing certain issues that were creating hurdles in the smooth movement of medical oxygen that was critically required to be supplied to the hospitals.

The CS said it was decided that Punjab shall increase the transportation rates as per the present market trend.

A storage tank for liquid medical oxygen will be set up at Government Medical College (GMC) in Amritsar, she said.

In order to further ramp up the supply chain, it was also decided to immediately free the nitrogen carrying tankers used for movement of semen under contract with the Animal Husbandry department and utilise them for movement of liquid medical oxygen till the situation normalises.

Meanwhile, Punjab recorded 157 more coronavirus fatalities, taking the toll to 9,472, while 6,798 more infections pushed the tally to 3,92,042, according to a medical bulletin.

On Sunday too, the state had seen 157 deaths.

The number of active cases rose from 60,108 on Sunday to 60,709.

Of the latest fatalities, 21 deaths were registered from Ludhiana, thirteen 13 each from Bathinda and Amritsar, 16 in Sangrur and 12 from Mohali.

Ludhiana recorded a maximum number of cases at 1,198, followed by 697 in Jalandhar, 623 in Bathinda, 534 in Mohali and 491 in Patiala, among fresh cases in the state.

A total of 6,016 coronavirus patients were discharged after recovering from the infection, taking the number of recoveries to 3,21,861, the bulletin said.

There are 213 critical patients who are on ventilator support while 7,845 are on oxygen support, the bulletin said.

A total of 73,77,560 samples have been collected for testing so far in the state, it said.

Chief Minister Singh also announced that all accredited and yellow card journalists in the state will be included in the list of frontline warriors in the fight against Covid-19.

All power corporation employees in the state have also been brought into the ambit of frontline workers.

These employees, along with the journalists, will now be eligible for all benefits, including priority vaccination, that frontline workers are entitled to from the state government, said the CM at a covid review meeting.

Journalists have been taking grave risks in covering the pandemic from the ground, and helping spread awareness on it, for the past more than one year, said the CM in an official statement.

Meanwhile, UT Chandigarh too witnessed another record 890 fresh infections, taking the infection tally to 45,196.

Eleven more people succumbed to the infection, pushing the toll to 507, according to a medical bulletin.

The number of active cases was 7,943, as per the bulletin. PTI CHS VSD TIR TIR