Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh (ANI)
CHANDIGARH: Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to increase the state’s oxygen quota and ensure urgent supplies of anti-Covid-19 vaccines.
The chief minister raised these issues when PM Modi called him up to discuss the state’s Covid-19 situation and the measures being taken to tackle the crisis, according to an official statement.
The Prime Minister assured all possible help, Singh said.
The chief minister hoped that the Centre would take immediate steps to supplement oxygen supplies and ensure vaccine doses are sent on priority to help the Punjab government effectively manage the situation triggered by the second wave of the pandemic, the statement said.
Singh told the Prime Minister the state was unable to initiate phase-III of the vaccination process for the 18-44 age group people, but it will now begin in government hospitals from Monday following the delivery of one lakh doses.
For the 45 plus age group too, the vaccine was in short supply and while 1.63 lakh doses were expected to come on Sunday, these were not enough to meet the state’s requirement, he said.
The chief minister informed PM Modi that the state urgently requires 300 metric tonnes (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 mortality count, and hospitalisation in level-2 and 3 facilities (both government and private) has seen a sharp surge over the past three weeks, pushing up the oxygen demand, the statement said.
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 liquid medical oxygen quota and also supply more tankers to Punjab to enable it to cope with the crisis.
An official spokesperson said Punjab health secretary Hussan Lal, in a letter to additional secretary in the Union ministry of health and family welfare, had noted that while the state has taken several steps to ensure judicious use of oxygen by hospitals, in line with the advisory of government of India, the growing demand for the life-saving gas necessitated an increase in allocation to 300 MT.
Further, only four oxygen tankers have been allocated to Punjab, of which two are yet to be made functional, the official said.
Since 40 per cent of the allocation (227 MT) is out of Bokaro (in Jharkhand) from where transport of oxygen takes between three to five days, the health secretary has requested allocation of at least eight more tankers on urgent basis, against the total demand for 20 tankers raised by the state government, the official said.