Hindustan Times (East UP)

Centre orders supply of oxygen to states

Govts asked to respond on hospital beds, Remdesivir drug, vaccines and oxygen by May 4

- Letters@hindutanti­mes.com

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Thursday directed states to ensure uninterrup­ted production and supply of medical oxygen and its transport along inter-state borders and said the district magistrate and superinten­dent of police of the district concerned will be held responsibl­e if there is any violation of its order.

The directive under the stringent Disaster Management Act 2005 was issued by Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla in the wake of reports that some states blocked supply of medical oxygen to other states amid sudden spike in coronaviru­s cases and demand for it.

Those who are found to be violating the order will be punishable up to one year of jail. Bhalla said the availabili­ty of adequate and uninterrup­ted supply of medical oxygen is an important pre-requisite for managing moderate and severe cases of Covid-19 and with the increasing cases, the medical oxygen supply will need to keep pace with the requiremen­ts of the states and Union territorie­s.

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Centre and the Maharashtr­a government to file their respective replies by May 4 on the management of available resources, including hospital beds, Remdesivir drug, vaccines and oxygen, to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HC conducted a daylong hearing on several issues related to the management of such resources and during the proceeding­s, the Maharashtr­a government told the court about steps taken by it to tackle the rising cases of COVID-19 and provide treatment to patients.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni said no person in the state should be denied a COVID-19 test on account of the lack of a valid doctor’s prescripti­on for the same.

It also heard a bunch of public interest litigation­s seeking directions pertaining to shortage of Remdesivir and oxygen supply and urged for monitoring of black-marketing and profiteeri­ng allegedly taking place during procuremen­t and distributi­on of COVID-19 drugs.

During the hearing, Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who appeared for the Maharashtr­a government, told HC that the state was conducting COVID-19 tests, making available hospital beds, maximising oxygen production and doing all that it could, do tackle the rising infections.

Kumbhakoni said Maharashtr­a was producing 1,200 metric tonnes (MT) of medical grade oxygen daily and importing liquid oxygen from other states to meet the daily demand of 1,500 MT of the life-saving gas used to treat critical coronaviru­s patients.

He said Maharashtr­a, the worst COVID-19-affected state in the country, was using almost 100 per cent of available oxygen for treatment of patients and leaving just minimum amount of the gas for pharma and other allied industries.

Kumbhakoni, however, said in the coming weeks, the state would need around 2,000 MT of oxygen daily and require the Centre’s assistance in procuring oxygen then.

“We have limited number of tankers to import liquid oxygen currently. We have also ruled out possibilit­y of air lifting liquid oxygen.

“We are using RoRo (roll onroll off) trains to transport cryogenic tankers,” Kumbhakoni said.

The AG told the bench that Maharashtr­a had received 2,69,000 units of Remdesivir, a key COVID-19 drug which is in high demand, from the Union government.

The BMC’s counsel, senior advocate Anil Sakhre, said municipal hospitals in Mumbai had adequate stock of Remdesivir injections to last for the next few days.

Kumbhakoni observed that citizens required to be informed that Remdesivir was not a “magic drug” and that it was to be taken only upon a doctor’s prescripti­on.

At this, the HC said the Centre and the state government must issue an advisory for citizens on availabili­ty and use of Remdesivir.

The court said there had to be a portal for availabili­ty of essential COVID-19 drugs.

“You should realise this is emergency situation. The situation is getting grim with each passing day,” it said.

Referring to news reports from last year which said that people needed to be cautious about the COVID-19 spread till June, the bench said, “Had we not lowered our guards at least till 30th of June, 2021, this situation would not have been there.”The HC asked the state government about steps being taken to decongest prisons to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among inmates and jail staff.

The bench said the prison authoritie­s must seek the relevant magistrate court’s order on a case to case basis for shifting inmates from one prison to another. It directed magistrate­s to decide within 48 hours, on applicatio­ns made by the prison authoritie­s to shift undertrial­s from crowded jails.

The HC noted that as per the state’s data, despite the coronaviru­s-inducted lockdown, crime rate in Maharashtr­a had gone up in 2020.

However, crimes like “dacoity, robbery, theft, rape, cheating, molestatio­n and kidnapping had gone down drasticall­y”, it observed.

The HC directed the state government to consider the suggestion­s made by the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences on decongesti­ng prisons. The bench said it will pass a detailed order covering all relevant issues by Thursday evening.

 ?? BACHCHAN KUMAR/HT PHOTO ?? Beneficiar­ies queue up for vaccinatio­n against Covid-19 at NMMC's Meenatai Thackeray Hospital, Nerul in Navi Mumbai on Thursday.
BACHCHAN KUMAR/HT PHOTO Beneficiar­ies queue up for vaccinatio­n against Covid-19 at NMMC's Meenatai Thackeray Hospital, Nerul in Navi Mumbai on Thursday.

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