INDIA. Mumbai: Given an unprecedented surge in the new daily cases of COVID and resultant heavy demand for Medical Oxygen, the Indian Railway ministry has decided to press in service the Special ‘Oxygen Express’ trains for transport of liquid medical oxygen(LMO).
The Railways Ministry is gearing up to transport LMO and oxygen cylinders across the key corridors and to run Oxygen Express. A Green Corridor is being created for fast movement of oxygen express trains, to reach the oxygen in bulk and rapidly to patients, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted on Sunday. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments had approached Railway Ministry to explore whether LMO tankers could be moved by rails. Railways are leaving no stone unturned in the battle against COVID-19, he added.
Besides, leading the fight against COVID-19, a facility with 50 COVID-19 isolation coaches with 800 beds has been set up at Shakur Basti Station. Also, 25 coaches will be available at Anand Vihar Station in Delhi. Railways can set up 3 lakh isolation beds across the country on States’ demand, Goyal said.
In another tweet, the Indian Railways said “Indian Railways is making all-out efforts for fighting COVID-19 and isolation coaches have started functioning at Nandurbar in Maharashtra with COVID-19 patients being admitted. These coaches at Nandurbar, are covered with layered gunnies and water drip system for lowering the temperature”.
Due to the recent surge in the COVID-19 cases in the country, the requirement of oxygen for effective clinical treatment of patients has also witnessed a manifold hike. The Union Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has conveyed that this has already reached about 60 percent of the total daily Oxygen production, and is expected to rise further. There have been reports of shortage of medical oxygen from some states and Union Territories, the Union Health ministry stated.
The Government of India has been regularly monitoring the situation to ensure smooth supply of essential medical equipments including medical oxygen, to the affected states and addressing challenges that arise from time to time. The Empowered Group-II (EG-II) headed by Secretary, DPIIT is mandated by the government to manage requisite supplies of medical equipment and drugs including medical oxygen across the country. Several immediate and timely measures have been taken in recent days by the government to address the issue of adequate availability of medical oxygen. While every effort is being made to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen, including augmenting daily production and stocks and states/Union Territories are taking appropriate steps for optimum and rationalized utilization of available stock of oxygen, the present trend necessitates additional measures, the health ministry stated.
To bring in the oxygen, 10 empty tankers will be despatched on Monday on a Roll-on-Roll-of basis from Kalamboli (Navi Mumbai) and Boisar (Palghar district) in Maharashtra to Visakhapatnam(Andhra Pradesh), Jamshedpur and Bokaro (Jharkhand) and Rourkela(Odisha). They will return after gas filling at these sites. The tankers will be mounted on railway wagons. Since the height between the tracks and upper corridor is less at some places, the tankers with 3320 mm height (model T 1618) are being used to avoid bottlenecks in transit.
As part of a trial, a few DBKM wagons and one oxygen-filled tanker (T 1618) were brought to Kalmboli goods shed on April 15 and the tests were carried out. Similar tests were also carried out at Boisar and other places on Sunday.
A meeting between the railway board officials, Maharashtra Transport Commissioner, and other representatives was held on Saturday in which it was decided that the transportation of tankers will be looked after by the Maharashtra transport commissioner. It was also agreed that the Maharashtra Transport Secretary will provide the required tankers by Monday, the railway officials stated.
The supply of Oxygen for industrial purposes prohibited
In another significant development, the Union Government on Sunday decided to prohibit the supply of Oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers from April 22 onwards till further orders. The matter was deliberated by the DPIIT with all the stakeholders and after due deliberations, it was considered prudent to restrict the industrial usage of oxygen to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen. The surplus oxygen available up as a result of this temporary restriction will facilitate it’s freeing up for use as medical oxygen for treatment of COVID19 patients, DPIIT stated.
This prohibition, however, shall not apply to the supply of oxygen to the following nine industries: the manufacturers of Ampoules and Vials, Pharmaceuticals, Petroleum refineries, Steel plants, Nuclear energy facilities, Oxygen cylinder manufacturers, Wastewater treatment plants, Food and water purification and process industries which require the uninterrupted operation of furnaces, processes, etc. as approved by respective State governments.
The industrial units, other than those listed above, which would not be in a position to obtain oxygen are advised to consider alternate measures such as import of Oxygen or setting up their own Air Separator Units (ASU) for generation of Oxygen for their captive requirements. The Union Health Ministry has advised all Chief Secretaries to ensure effective implementation and compliance of this Order.