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Delhi HC directs Centre to find immediate solution to oxygen shortage, holds manufacturer in contempt

The bench asked what should patients do if the oxygen runs out when it was informed that supplies in various hospitals in Delhi was about to be exhausted in the next 4-8 hours.

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ILNS: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday took a serious view of the Covid situation in the capital, especially of the oxygen supply to hospitals, and ordered the government to immediately take care of the situation.

A division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli further said that oxygen manufacturer Inox, which had allegedly deprived the Capital of its due supply and had not complied with the court’s order, is in contempt and will have to be present in the court tomorrow. The Bench further asked the UP Chief Secretary to remain present before it.

The Court was hearing allegations brought forth by several people regarding the complete mismanagement of Covid situation in the National Capital. Arguments carried on till late and, in between, the Court also asked why wait till April 22 for stoppage of oxygen supply to industries (as proposed by the government) and not stop this immediately?

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma and Advocate Monika Arora represented the Centre, while Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra and Advocate Satyakam, representing the State of Delhi, were the plaintiffs.

The court also passed directives regarding the ramping up of testing. It directed the ICMR to give top priority to clearances for setting up/expanding RT-PCR test labs. The court also asked the Centre and the ICMR to review the form through which reports are being sent, saying that the same is time consuming.

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The court also said that the Centre should dynamically review distribution of Remdesivir to States and UTs on the basis of the need/serious active Covid-19 patients. This is to maximize usage of life-saving drugs.

The bench acted, when it was informed that oxygen supplies in various hospitals in Delhi was about to get exhausted in the next 4-8 hours.

Nipun Vinayak, Joint Secretary for Ministry of Health, speaking over oxygen shortage, said that there is a formula for determining oxygen requirement. Based on the formula, 220 MT oxygen is the requirement for Delhi. Delhi has been given 378 MT oxygen.

“Pharma, petroleum, steel plants, nuclear, vials and oxygen cylinder manufacturers, food purification, process industries requiring uninterrupted furnaces. 7,000 MT is the total production. Nearly 3,000 MT was used for industrial purposes. However, with the ban, the remaining will be additionally available,”

-the Joint Secretary added.

“There is a ballpark figure by experts (on Covid patients)…  80 percent are mild, 17 percent are moderate, three percent are to be managed in ICU,” said the senior government official, while giving the oxygen requirement formula.

Vinayak took the court through the various oxygen plants in the capital and also the ones, which are in the process of being set up.

Also Read: Special oxygen plants being installed, Centre tells Delhi HC

The complainant said, “Not all OPDs are shut. Critical care patients can’t be shifted. Private hospitals aren’t attending patients without Covid.”

Mehra took the court through Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s letter to Union Minister Piyush Goyal for increasing the oxygen supply. He said based on the UOI’s formula, for 76,000 active cases, total requirement for oxygen is 973 MT, including 10 percent ICU and 10 percent non-ICU.

“If we don’t do anything today, it will go to 1,100 and people will die because of apathy and nothing else,” he added.

Vinayak said the Centre was doing its best to match the demands of the states.

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The Court said,

“There are some other medicines, which are in short supply, therefore, we would like the Drug Controller to take up the issue with the manufacturers. You have power under Section 92. This is a sensitive matter. Most drugs are produced overseas. We direct the Centre to look into this aspect seriously.”

The Court also noted that considering the number of COVID patients needing hospitalisation is higher than last year, the Centre should urgently consider allocating more beds to Delhi.

At this, ASG Sharma said, “It could send a wrong message that Centre is not taking it seriously.”

The court rephrased the sentence, saying “Situation is alarming on the point of supply of oxygen.”

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