Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to increase the total quota of oxygen to 300 metric tonnes (MT) and alsensure “urgent supplies of Covid vaccine” for Punjab, which was “facing shortages on both counts”.
The CM raised these issues when Modi called him up to discuss the state’s Covid situation and the measures being taken to tackle the crisis, a statement said.
The Prime Minister assured him of all possible help, the Chief Minister said later, adding that he hoped that the Centre would take immediate steps to supplement the oxygen supplies in the state, and ensure that vaccine doses were sent to Punjab on priority to help the state government effectively manage the situation triggered by the second wave of the pandemic.
Amarinder also told the Prime Minister that the state had been unable to initiate the Phase III vaccination process for 18-45 age group yet, which will now start in government hospitals on Monday following the delivery of one lakh (vaccine) doses. For the 45+ age group, too, vaccine doses were in short supply, and while 1.63 lakh doses were expected to arrive on Sunday, these were not enough to meet the requirement, he added.
The Chief Minister informed Modi that the state urgently required 300 MT of oxygen in view of the growing caseload of critically ill Covid patients, many of whom were coming from other states, including Delhi-NCR. The state has a high Covid mortality count, and hospitalisation in Level 2 & 3 facilities (both government and private) has seen a sharp surge over the past three weeks, pushing up demand for oxygen.
From 197 MT on April 22, the demand had risen to 295.5 MT on May 8, he pointed out, adding that the shortage of tankers had made the situation worse and the Centre’s support was needed to enhance the LMO quota and also supply more tankers to Punjab to enable it to cope with the crisis.
An official spokesperson later said that State Health Secretary Hussan Lal, in a letter to Additional Secretary in the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, had noted that while the state has taken several steps to ensure judicious use of oxygen by hospitals, in line with an advisory of the Centre, the growing demand for oxygen necessitated an increase in allocation to 300 MT.
Further, only four oxygen tankers have been allocated to Punjab, of which two tankers are yet to be made functional. Since 40 per cent of the allocation (227 MT) is out of Bokaro (in Jharkhand) from where transport of oxygen takes between three and five days, the Health Secretary has requested allocation of at least eight more tankers on an urgent basis even as the government has sought 20 tankers in total.