26 die of oxygen shortage in Delhi and Punjab hospitals, more send SOS; active cases cross 25 lakh-Health News , Justnewsday”
West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh reported their highest single-day spike in cases for the third consecutive day on Saturday
At least two hospitals reported deaths of COVID-19 patients due to the lack of medical oxygen while the hospital admins waited for their stock of oxygen to be replenished.
The casualties reportedly included 20 in Jaipur Golden Hospital in Delhi and six Neelkant hospitals in Punjab
“Oxygen pressure has dipped as we are running out of stock,” Jaipur Golden Hospital’s medical director DK Baluja was quoted as saying by PTI, as news surfaced of patients dying in the intervening night.
The deaths of six patients at the Neelkant Hospital in Amritsar prompted Punjab authorities to order a probe into the incident.
“Despite the district administration being repeatedly asked to extend help, no one turned up to do the needful,” Sunil Devgan, the chairman and managing director of Neelkant hospital where the deaths occurred, claimed as per PTI.
However, Punjab Medical Education Minister OP Soni refuted the charge and claimed that no proper information was given by the hospital about any shortage of oxygen.
On day five of the oxygen crisis, hospitals across the National Capital Region and other states sent out desperate messages for help on social media and other platforms every few hours, flagging their dwindling stocks of oxygen while Centre and state governments scrambled to mitigate the fallout from the severe shortage of crucial resource.
In the National Capital, the situation was taken up by the Delhi High Court for the third consecutive day. On Saturday, the court questioned the Centre about its preparedness to deal with the expected peak of the second wave of COVID-19 in May and termed the current exponential rise in cases as a “tsunami”.
Taking a tough stance, the Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said that it will “hang” any person who tries to obstruct oxygen supplies to hospitals in Delhi.
“We will not spare anyone,” said the court during a special three-hour-long holiday hearing on the issue of the escalating oxygen crisis in various hospitals in the National Capital.
Amidst this, the ‘Oxygen Express’ arrived in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra to deliver three and four tankers, respectively, on Saturday.
The Union government also announced an exemption of basic customs duty on the import of medical-grade oxygen and related equipment, and on the import of COVID-19 vaccines.
It also directed the customs department to clear all import consignments, including life-saving drugs and equipment used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, on the highest priority.
On the numbers front, a record single-day rise of 3,46,786 coronavirus cases pushed India’s total tally to 1,66,10,481, while active cases crossed the 25 lakh, according to the health ministry’s data updated at 8 am on Saturday. A total of 2,624 new deaths were also recorded.
West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh reported their highest single-day spike in cases for the third consecutive day on Saturday. Bengal, in the midst of an eight-phased Assembly election, 14,281 COVID-19 cases which took the tally to 7,28,061.
Uttar Pradesh recorded 38,055 new cases and 223 deaths, pushing the virus tally to 10,51,314 and the toll to 10,959, according to an official statement. Maharashtra, which has been the worst hit by the virus, Saturday reported 67,160 new coronavirus cases, slightly more than Friday, but its toll from the virus declined to 676.
Bharat Biotech announces vaccine costs; SII defends pricing
After SII, Bharat Biotech announced the price of its COVID-19 vaccine for states and private hospitals. The Hyderabad-based company said that it would sell the vaccine at Rs 1,200 per dose to private hospitals and Rs 600 per dose to state governments.
The company, however, will continue to supply vaccines at Rs 150 per dose to the Central Government, and that more than 50 percent of its capacities have been reserved for Central Government”.
Meanwhile, the Serum Institute of India (SII), which makes the most-used COVID-19 vaccine in the country, defended its decision to price the Covishield vaccine at 1.5 times the initial rate, saying the earlier price was based on advance funding and now it has to invest in scaling up and expanding capacity to produce more shots.
The opposition parties had criticised the differential pricing for COVID-19 vaccines, saying it was discriminatory and will benefit only a “few big industrialists” while common people will suffer.
They had demanded the Centre and state governments pay the same price for the COVID-19 vaccine.
In response, SII clarified that there was an “inaccurate comparison” done between the global prices of the vaccine with India.
“Covishield is the most affordable COVID-19 vaccine available in the market today,” SII said. The initial prices were kept very low globally as these were based on advance funding given by those countries for at-risk vaccine manufacturing, it added.
‘Please help’: Delhi hospitals send SOS
Amid the unprecedented crisis, some “helpless” hospitals in Delhi advised relatives to shift their patients to another facility, while several others have been left with no option but to use their backup stock.
Making an urgent plea for oxygen supply, Narin Sehgal, the director of the Sehgal Neo Hospital in Delhi, said he was “absolutely helpless” and that the lives of 120 COVID-19 patients were at stake due to a severe oxygen shortage.
“Sixty COVID patients in my hospital are in dire need of oxygen,” Sehgal said through a video message.
“I really don’t know how to help my patients in a situation like this,” Sehgal said. “I’ve been asking for help from everyone, but nothing is coming through. Please help me!”
The Fortis Hospital in Shalimar Bagh, also running on its backup oxygen supply, urged the prime minister, Delhi chief minister and other ministers for “immediate assistance”.
The Saroj Super Speciality Hospital, having not received an oxygen refill for the past 44 hours, advised its patients to shift to other hospitals.
“We’re running low on oxygen and using our backup now. We have alerted our patients about the situation and are advising them to shift to another hospital. Things are really uncertain,” Saroj Super Speciality Hospital medical director PK Bhardwaj told PTI.
Bhardwaj said the hospital, which needs three metric tonnes of oxygen per day on average, was only getting around an MT of oxygen for the past few days. Seventy patients at the hospital are currently on oxygen support.
Sailing in the same boat is the Batra Hospital in Tughlakabad Institutional area.
“We’ve run out of oxygen completely, even the backup,” Batra Hospital executive director Sudhanshu Bankata told PTI. “We feel helpless; have started asking families to take patients to other healthcare facilities where oxygen is available.”
Bankata had warned the authorities of such a situation earlier in the day when the hospital received an emergency oxygen supply moments before 9 am on Saturday. He had said the stock would “last another one-and-a-half hour” only.
There are around 350 patients admitted at the hospital, out of which 265 are coronavirus positive and 30 are in the ICU.
The situation is equally worrisome at the Fortis Hospital, which is running on its backup oxygen supply, desperately waiting for the refill since morning. “Fortis Shalimar Bagh is running out of oxygen. Patients’ lives are at risk,” it tweeted, issuing an SOS.
“We are running on backup, waiting for supplies since morning. We are currently suspending admissions. Request immediate assistance @PMOIndia @ArvindKejriwal @AmitShah @PiyushGoyal @rajnathsingh,” the hospital added.
The hospital said it was keeping the patients and attendants informed about the “critical situation”, and trying to manage admitted patients to the best of their abilities.
Elite hospitals like the Sir Ganga Ram, which got a refill of 1.5 tonnes of oxygen, said their present stock would last for two hours only. The hospital requires a minimum of 11,000 cubic metres of oxygen daily.
“We were running oxygen at half the normal pressure. This supply of 1.5 tonnes of oxygen will last for may be two hours. The situation is scary,” an official said.
The facility had on Friday reported the death of 25 critical patients as the administration grappled with depleting oxygen supplies.
“It asked the government for immediate intervention and consider reducing patient intake,” hospital chairperson DS Rana said.
“I appeal to both the Centre and the state to help. On one hand, they increased COVID beds and on the other, they can’t supply oxygen in sufficient quantity. How are we supposed to work?” Rana asked.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also sent an SOS to his counterparts in other states, seeking their help in boosting medical oxygen supply in the National Capital.
‘Oxygen Express’ trains reach UP, Maharashtra; IAF transports oxygen cylinders
While Delhi hospitals struggled to treat their COVID-19 patients, in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, an Oxygen Express train carrying three tankers of liquid medical oxygen from Jharkhand arrived on Saturday morning via a green corridor.
“Two trucks of medical oxygen arrived in Lucknow around 6.30 am while one truck was offloaded in Varanasi. Each truck has a capacity of 15,000 litres of medical oxygen,” Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi told PTI.
The state on Saturday recorded its highest single-day spike in new infections and coronavirus -related deaths with 38,055 new cases and 223 fatalities, pushing the tally to 10,51,314 and the toll to 10,959, according to an official statement.
Maharashtra, one of the worse-hit states also found some relief, with an Oxygen Express from Visakhapatnam reaching Nashik with four tankers.
Additionally, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said all health facilities of defence public sector undertakings and Ordnance Factory Board have been allowed to provide health services to civilians infected with the coronavirus .
Four cryogenic tanks, to be used for transporting oxygen, were flown from Singapore by C17 heavy-lift transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force. C-17 aircraft also carried four empty oxygen containers from Pune in Maharashtra and one from Indore in Madhya Pradesh to filling stations in Jamnagar in Gujarat.
The IAF airlifted to Ladakh medical equipment weighing 1,700 kilograms, including bio-safety cabinets and centrifuges, which will help augment COVID-19 testing facilities in the Union Territory, PTI reported.
Besides, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is adding another 250 beds by Saturday evening at its Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Covid Hospital near the Delhi airport.
Singh said work is in full swing to establish a COVID-19 treatment facility in Lucknow that will become operational in the next five-six days, adding the hospitals would be run by the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) in coordination with the Uttar Pradesh government.
The three services as well as other wings of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have been extending support to various state governments and union territories in dealing with the massive spike in coronavirus cases.
Since Friday, the Indian Air Force airlifted empty oxygen tankers and containers to various filling stations across the country to speed up the distribution of the much-needed medical oxygen in treating COVID-19 patients. The IAF has also been transporting essential medicines as well as equipment required by the designated COVID hospitals in various parts of the country.
Mumbai sees drop in new COVID-19 cases
Mumbai on Saturday recorded 5,888 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest daily rise in infections since 30 March. Increased testing and isolation of patients along with the exodus of migrant labourers may have led to the decline, the government was quoted by PTI as saying.
Also, for the first time since 12 April, when the city had reported 6,905 cases, the daily rise in infections in the country’s financial capital fell below 7,000 on Saturday. The caseload in the city stands at 6,22,109.
The city on 30 March had reported 4,758 COVID-19 cases, after which the figures had risen.
The fall in cases on Saturday also brought down the positivity rate from 18 percent to 15 percent.
Statewise curbs, COVID-19 caseload details
A record single-day rise of 3,46,786 coronavirus cases pushed India’s tally of infection to 1,66,10,481, while active cases crossed the 25-lakh mark, according to the health ministry’s data updated at 8 am on Saturday.
The death toll rose to 1,89,544 with a record 2,624 more fatalities in a day.
Ten states, including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, reported 74.15 percent of the new COVID-19 cases
Also, 12 states are displaying an upward trajectory in daily cases. These are Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Bihar and West Bengal.
Most of these states have imposed night curfew, weekend shutdown and other lockdown-like restrictions.
In Kerala, lockdown-like curbs came into force for 48 hours with only essential services and emergency activities being allowed and a holiday declared for government offices and PSUs.
“We are sitting on a volcano which can explode any moment. People should understand the situation and take adequate precaution to protect themselves,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, stressing that the situation was grim, as the state reported over 26,000 new cases.
The Tamil Nadu government also announced new curbs, and said that cinemas, places of worship, malls, bars and salons will be shut from 26 April.
Haryana, Telangana and Jammu and Kashmir announced free vaccine for all on Saturday, joining several other states like Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
With inputs from PTI
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