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Centres asks states to allow free inter-state movement of oxygen carrying vehicles

“No such restriction is imposed on the movement of Medical Oxygen between the States/ UTs and transport authorities shall be instructed to accordingly allow free inter-state movement of oxygen carrying vehicles,” Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla said in a letter to state chief secretaries.

The communication was made as keeping in view the requisition of Medical Oxygen and to ensure its smooth supplies to concerned agencies, empowered Group-II, which is mandated for coordinating medical logistics including oxygen, has prepared a supply plan that is required to be followed by all States/UTs and concerned agencies.

“No restrictions shall be imposed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit the oxygen supplies only to the hospitals of the State in which they are located. There shall be free movement of oxygen carrying vehicles into the cities, without any restrictions of timings, while also enabling inter-city supply without restriction,” said Bhalla.

The home secretary noted that in last few days, a sharp increase in covid-19 cases has been observed in the country along with high positivity rate. In order to break the chain of transmission and curb the spread of Covid-19, various States/UTs have imposed additional restrictions on certain activities and curfews etc.

“Availability of adequate and uninterrupted supply of Medical Oxygen is an important pre-requisite for managing moderate and severe cases of covid-19. With increasing cases, the medical oxygen supplies will need to keep pace with the requirements of the States,” he said.

Medical Oxygen is an essential public health commodity and any impediment in the supplies of Medical Oxygen in the country may critically impact the management of patients suffering from covid-19 disease in other parts of the country, the home secretary.

Bhalla and Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary also chaired high-level meetings on Friday to review status of covid-19 in Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh and the public health measures taken for containment and management of covid-19 by the State health authorities.

Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh along with Maharashtra are the only three States in the country which have more than one lakh Active Cases. Both Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh are reporting very high number of daily new covid-19 cases and high deaths caused by covid-19.

Chhattisgarh has reported nearly 6.2% increase in weekly new covid-19 cases based on 7 day moving average. In last two weeks, the State has seen almost 131% increase in weekly new cases. 22 districts in Chhattisgarh have crossed their reported highest cases in the last 30 days; Raipur, Durg, Rajnandgaon and Bilaspur are the most affected districts. In contrast to the week 17th-23rd March 2021, in the week of 7th-13thApril 2021, RT-PCR tests have decreased to 28% (from 34%) while the Antigen Tests have increased to 62% (from 53%).

Uttar Pradesh has reported a growth rate of 19.25% in daily new cases. 46 districts in Uttar Pradesh have crossed their reported highest cases in the last 30 days; Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi and Prayagraj are the most affected districts. In contrast to the week 17th-23rd March 2021, in the week of 7th-13th April 2021, RT-PCR tests have decreased to 46% (from 48%) while Antigen tests have increased to 53% (from 51%).

The reported shortage of hospital infrastructure such as ICU and oxygen supported hospitals beds resulting in difficulty to the public in easily accessing critical healthcare services were discussed in comprehensive detail, requiring an urgent ramping up of hospital infrastructure.

The States were advised to increase the number of isolation beds, oxygen beds, ventilators/ICU beds, ambulance fleet as per requirement; plan for adequate oxygen supply; and focus on mortality reduction by early identification of positive cases and adherence to national treatment protocol.

Prohibiting unnecessary travel and crowing in public places through strict and effective enforcement was stressed.

The Union Health Secretary informed that the States’ demand for oxygen cylinders (including 10 Litre cylinders and 45 litre jumbo cylinders) and demand for additional ventilators (having high flow nasal canula) will be met very soon.

The Union Government has mapped the manufacturing sources of Oxygen with the 12 States reporting the highest number of daily new cases. States have been advised to increase dedicated covid-19 beds and use the available buildings in the Hospital campus (including AIIMS) for creation of additional covid-19 dedicated wards.

The Union Health Secretary further informed that the Union Health Ministry is informing States every day in the morning of the day’s supply of covid-19 Vaccines to the States, to enable better planning for optimum utilisation of the Vaccines. An augmented health workforce would be needed in the coming days for contact tracing and house-to-house survey for the symptomatic patients. The States were advised deployment of volunteers of NSS, NYK, women Self Help Groups (SHGs), and hiring retired doctors/paramedics etc., on contracts under NHM funds.

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