Amid reports of a dearth in oxygen supply in hospitals and nursing homes across Maharashtra — the worst affected state by Covid-19 pandemic — Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan Saturday reassured Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray of adequate and uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen.

The minister also assured the Maharashtra government of all possible support with respect to healthcare infrastructure, medicines and therapeutics amid an alarming surge in infections.

In a tweet, Harsh Vardhan also said that an additional 1,121 ventilators are also being rushed to the state given the surge in cases.

Union minister Harsh Vardhan had held a review meeting with Thackeray, wherein, discussions were held on further stringent actions to be taken for containment, surveillance and treatment of Covid cases. At the meeting, the health minister reiterated the need to focus on the five pillars i.e., “Test, Track, Treat, Covid-Appropriate Behaviour and Vaccination” to tide over the ongoing health crisis.

Meanwhile, on a different note, Union minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday attacked Uddhav Thackeray on the issue of availability of oxygen in the state, saying that Maharashtra has so far received the highest quantity of oxygen in India and the Centre is in regular touch with state governments to assess their needs.

“Maharashtra is suffering from an inept and corrupt government and the Centre is doing its best for the people. People of Maharashtra are following ‘Majha Kutumb, Majhi Javabadari’ dutifully. It is time the CM (chief minister) also follows his duties in the spirit of ‘Majha Rajya, Majhi Javabadari’,’” the commerce and industry minister said.

Thackeray had on April 13 written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting to “press in” the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and make use of all options, including the airlift of medical oxygen, for rapid movement.

“The biggest concern is Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) supply. The requirement of medical oxygen in the state is crossing the total capacity of 1,200 MT of LMO manufacturing. We have projected the demand will be close to 2,000 MT per day by April-end,” he wrote.

Citing logistical hurdles in the transportation of liquid medical oxygen from neighbouring states, Thackeray had sought permission under the NDMA to airlift oxygen from steel plants in eastern and southern parts of the country.

Medical-grade oxygen is used for the treatment of critical COVID-19 patients and in other cases of respiratory diseases.

Following plea by the Maharashtra government, the Railways has formulated a policy for the transportation of liquid medical oxygen in cryogenic tankers to combat the pandemic.

The policy, made public late Friday night, said the cryogenic tankers will be transported as a paid-for roll-on-roll (Ro-Ro) service to various destinations across states.

The circular said Maharashtra’s health secretary had requested for the transport of medical oxygen in cryogenic containers.

As India continues to witness a surge in Covid-19 cases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday reviewed the current situation of medical-grade oxygen supply in the country.

Modi took a detailed review of the current situation of oxygen supply and its projected use for the next 15 days across 12 high burden states – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

According to PMO, the Prime Minister was also briefed about the production capacity in the country to meet the rising demand.

On Thursday, the Centre had asked states to make rational use of medical oxygen and ensure there is no wastage while stressing that there is sufficient stock of oxygen in the country.

Medical oxygen is a critical component in the treatment of COVID-19 affected patients. An inter-ministerial Empowered Group (EG2) of officers was constituted during the COVID pandemic in March 2020 to ensure the availability of essential medical equipment including medical oxygen to the affected states, the Union health ministry said.

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