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The On-Going Crisis, Measures taken by the Government

Reported By : Saad Inshrah, Student, AMU.

Published On : April 28, 2021

The Psychological Impact on Common People.

Every crisis reveals the reality. It also reveals our resourcefulness and readiness for a demanding situation. The second wave of COVID-19 has exposed glaring gaps in the country’s health infrastructure and the government’s preparedness in dealing with a crisis that came with enough warning signs. It is saddening to see how people are struggling to get the basic medical needs. Patients, relatives, and hospitals have been desperately scrambling for oxygen. Patients under home isolation are facing difficulties to get oxygen cylinders, and the price of refilling a cylinder or renting an oxygen concentrator have also been manipulated and hiked up. India has been recording the highest one-day tally of new COVID-19 cases and the country’s highest number of deaths over 24 hours. Close to 16 million confirmed cases, we are back to the second position after the US. With the overburdened healthcare system, people are dying out of fear also. A number of people have died while waiting for oxygen, be it COVID-19 patients or not. Medicines are still scarce and black marketed. There’s hoarding and panic buying as if we are in a war. Crowds have formed outside hospitals in major cities which are filled to capacity and we are out of bed also. Several hospitals in Delhi made frenetic public calls this week seeking emergency oxygen supplies. With COVID-19 cases also swamping its neighbouring states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, oxygen demand is so over-stretched that even vendors and local dealers dealing in oxygen for industrial purposes are haunted. Maharashtra, the financial hub of India is in worst condition. It has also been a Covid hotspot since the start of the pandemic. Going through this, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray, urged Prime Minister Modi to declare Covid-19 pandemic a natural calamity to allow the use of disaster funds. Delhi only received about 177 tonnes of oxygen on Wednesday against its allocation of 378 tonnes, an official said. All these were not enough, a news came out from Nashik, Maharashtra, where the oxygen tanker has leaked out and the hospital has to switch off the supply for half an hour, due to which 24 patients were dead and 30 were shifted to another hospital.
Dr Upendra Kaul, cardiologist at Batra Hospital in Delhi, told Al Jazeera, the situation was “very precarious”.

“We were using about 8,000 litres of oxygen per day during the period, but then unfortunately, the last few days it has been reduced to around 2,000 or 1,500 litres per day that is coming in, with the result that patients are getting in great trouble,” he said. Kaul added that suppliers of oxygen to Batra for the last 30 years were unresponsive. “They have put off their telephone calls, we can’t email them. Obviously, they don’t have any oxygen.”

“Our supply was delayed by seven-eight hours on Friday night and the stock we received last night is only 40 percent of the required supply,” the newspaper quoted the hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr DK Baluja, as saying. (Source-Al Jazeera)

Crematoriums across Delhi said they were full and asked grieving families to wait. One charity has set up an overflow crematorium in a car park, with makeshift funeral pyres built to deal with the mounting deaths.

“The situation is grim. We have supplies that will probably take us till midnight today.” -Indraprastha Apollo Hospital MD

Literally every hospital is reporting that they don’t have much oxygen left with them. But there are good news as well, Sikhs in Delhi are distributing free medical oxygen to needy and temples & mosques are being converted to Covid Healthcare Centres.

Why is India suffering from Oxygen Crisis? Do we Have Enough Oxygen? What measures are being taken?

The main problem is that medical oxygen is not reaching the hospitals on time and in sufficient measure. This delay and deficiency is a result of the distance where production units are located, a stretched distribution network, and what critics have identified as bad planning.

Stung by criticism of its lack of preparation before the new wave of infections, the government has deployed military planes and trains to get oxygen from the far corners of the country to New Delhi and other places.

“Please help us get oxygen, there will be a tragedy here.” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a conference via Zoom on Friday, 23rd April.

Facility locations, distribution networks and planning issues have hampered deliveries. India has a daily production capacity of at least 7,127 metric tonnes, out of which 2,500 metric tonnes have been used by the industries, this effectively leaves 4,600 metric tonnes for medical use. The centre prohibited oxygen supply to all industries barring nine.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare tweeted, “To ensure uninterrupted medical oxygen supply, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has proposed stringent action against those creating hindrance in interstate movement of transporting vehicles. Oxygen supply for industrial use, exempted by the government, has also been prohibited with immediate effect.”

The courts stepped in furiously at the centre’s inaction. Delhi High Court stated, “The Citizen can only fall back on the state. It is the responsibility of the Government. Beg… Borrow… or Steal. It is your job. How is the Government so oblivious of the reality on the ground? You cannot have people die of no oxygen. You take your own sweet time and people die.”

“Industries can wait. Patients cannot. Human lives are at stake.” A Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said to the Central Government.

The Supreme Court wants to see a national plan on this issue.

India’s total medical oxygen demand was just 3,842 tonnes as of April 12 when active cases were 12,64,000, as the surge in cases really took hold. But, now as the cases have been doubled to 24,28,608+, the demand has also been doubled. This week, the government allocated 6,822 tonnes of liquid oxygen per day to 20 of the country’s worst-affected states, compared to their combined demand of 6,785 tonnes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office said on Thursday. India reserves of 50,000 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen will barely cover 2-3 weeks based on current demand. Despite the centre’s assurance, the oxygen demand is already outstripping the supply. Even if the entire oxygen production is diverted for medical use, it will still fall short of the demand.

“It is evident that the healthcare infrastructure is at the stage of imminent collapse.” -Delhi High Court

The central government has activated the Indian railways to move multiple tankers from refilling plants to where it is most needed. The train has been named ‘Oxygen Express’. Working with industrial gas major Linde India and others, the government is also using the Air Force’s cargo planes to fly empty tankers to production hubs. Refilled oxygen tankers will then move back by road.

Several other industries are offering oxygen to hospitals. Tata Group is importing 24 specialised containers to transport liquid oxygen. Unlike other top companies of India who are busy in gambling, Tata Steel performing its Corporate Social Responsibility, has promised to supply 200-300 tonnes of oxygen per day to hospitals in and across Jharkhand. They have started to supply Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha from their plants at Jamshedpur, Bokaro and Rourkela.

The government has issued orders to convert argon and nitrogen tankers into oxygen ones. But as some experts predict a trebling of daily infections in a few weeks, India will have to dramatically ramp up both oxygen production and distribution systems. The state government of Uttar Pradesh gave a statement that there is no lack of oxygen here while the reality is something else. In Ghaziabad, the oxygen plant of a government hospital was blemished and now is being restored after the crisis. People are struggling for oxygen too and black marketing is on its peak in Ghaziabad. After this, a gurudwara came up and started serving the patients, now people are waying towards them. Just like Ghaziabad there are many more cities facing this same issue.

Amidst the oxygen crisis, there is good news. Kerala, is now a surplus medical oxygen producer, it gauged the requirement in March last year itself. The success was not achieved overnight. The state produces 204.75 tonnes per day of medical oxygen. Out of this, 35 tonnes per day is used for Covid cases and another 45 tonnes per day by non-Covid care units (Source-The New Indian Express). People of Goa thanked the Health Minister of Kerala for helping them with the movement of 20,000 litres of liquid oxygen for COVID patients in the state of Goa.

“Kerala is the only state which currently has surplus oxygen. One reason for this could be that the PESO (Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation) and state health department have been able to calculate the oxygen requirement of each patient and ensure optimal supply whereas this process has been not very rigorous in other states. PESO, Kerala initiated the oxygen monitoring on March 23 last year along with oxygen manufacturing plants and filling plants,” said R Venugopal, deputy chief controller of explosives, PESO, nodal officer (medical oxygen monitoring), Kerala & Lakshwadeep.

According to the latest news (Dated-25th April), Prime Minister to open 551 Oxygen Plants through the PM Cares Fund. (Source- NDTV)

Election Commission responsible for Covid-19 surge: Madras high court
The Madras high court on Monday, 26th April observed that the Election Commission of India should be put up on murder charges probably for being the most irresponsible institution over the last few months in not stopping political parties from wanton abuse of the Covid-19 protocol. (Source- The Times of India)

“You (ECI) are the only institution responsible for the situation that we are in today. You have been singularly lacking any kind of exercise of authority. You have not taken measures against political parties holding rallies despite every order of this court saying ‘maintain Covid protocol, maintain Covid protocol’,” the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said.

Search for Overseas Help
The armed forces are importing 23 mobile oxygen generation plants from Germany. French gas giant Air Liquide SA has also diverted oxygen supplies for industrial clients in India to hospitals. Cryogenic oxygen tanks airlifted from Singapore; UAE, EU, Russia and Saudi Arabia sending supplies. Four cryogenic oxygen tanks were airlifted by the Indian Air Force from Singapore, in the first such import a day after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar put out an appeal for international assistance for India’s ongoing coronavirus crisis. The tanks, used for the transportation of oxygen were brought from Singapore’s Changi Airport on an Indian Air Force (IAF) C-17 which landed on Saturday at Panagarh air base in West Bengal. “We stand with India in its fight against Covid-19,” Singapore’s Embassy in New Delhi said in a statement, calling it a “bilateral and multi-agency effort.” About 80 Metric Tonne of liquid oxygen are also expected to be flown to India from a company in Saudi Arabia, the Indian Embassy in Riyadh announced. The United Arab Emirates Government is also coordinating with Indian Embassy officials for the transfer of oxygen tankers, and the European Union and Russia are expected to send both oxygen-related and pharmaceutical supplies. Among those offering support, Pakistan’s Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation, a charity group, also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi offering 50 ambulances and emergency staff. On Saturday 24th April, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed solidarity with the people of India as they battled a dangerous wave of COVID-19. “We must fight this global challenge confronting humanity together,” Prime Minister Imran Khan added.

Psychological Impact on People

“Even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living,” Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon, wrote in his piercing memoir, When Breath Becomes Air.

We haven’t recovered from the trauma of the year 2020 and the more lethal version of Corona attacked. With the number of cases rising each day, near and dear ones getting affected, and amid lockdowns, stress and anxiety are at an all-time high in the second wave of Covid-19. The sheer rise in Covid-19 cases has caused a lot of distress and chaos in the country. I believe that happened because we Indians became careless and thought that we won the battle with Corona. People were roaming around without masks, rules were being broken, and political rallies were more important. And so, it happened and we are locked down again. Many things have been known about mental health, but this time, the distress and pain of others is affecting now, to a major extent. The year 2020 was the year of depression, and this year will be the year of paranoia.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. So, it is normal and understandable that people are experiencing fear in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

It’s heart-breaking for families to hear that the hospital where their loved ones are being treated have no bed facilities, are out of oxygen and no ambulance services as well. While scrolling down the social media, you might have seen pictures of people helplessly sitting on the road, lying in the auto-rickshaw, lying on the footpath etc… with the medical oxygen tank. The relative of patients crying in distress and pain, the expression of helplessness and anger is evident. How will this impact the people who are thankfully well for the time being? The thought will certainly make them vulnerable; they will now be afraid of being admitted to hospitals! “Will I be treated well?”, “What if won’t I be back?”, You and I, have no idea about it. The questions will sink the heart of the close ones! An oxygen cylinder, a ventilator and a bed would save thousands of lives. Human life is at this critical edge, it does not hold any value. Due to the failing healthcare system, people will become paranoid. Observing death of anyone is oppressive and when it is your loved ones it feels like a bottomless pit. Dead bodies are neither being returned nor being carried in a proper condition. Crematoriums and graveyards are full and not accepting bodies to cremate or bury. The feelings just cannot be penned down. Humanity is in shame. I just want to ask one thing; Will you call these deaths natural?! May the soul at least rest in peace.

It is hard to sleep after hearing the news of death reports, footages etc… or even thinking about it. Even smiling feels like a burden when our countrymates are suffering and fighting the battle for life. It has so brutally impacted people that even a viral fever haunts like it’s a Corona attack. Just one symptom, and you’ll start feeling low, distant yourself, start thinking wretched things, etc… Not just us, the common people, but even doctors are emotional and breaking down while talking about the situation. The Double and Triple Mutant second wave of Covid has made young bloods suffer. Cases of youngsters (aged 22-35) are critical, the future is deteriorating and is on hold.

Batra Hospital Medical Director Dr SCL Gupta got emotional while talking to ANI about the oxygen crisis in his hospital. Dr Gupta said, “We are requesting people to take their patients wherever O2 is available. We understand a patient is someone’s mother, father. If I lose someone close, I’d naturally feel bad.”

According to a new survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a third of Americans are sleeping worse than they did before the pandemic. About 30 percent say they have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. One in five also say they’ve experienced more disturbing dreams during the pandemic. This so-called “COVID-somnia” can be brought on by fears about the coronavirus, concern for our loved ones, economic worries, and limited social contact, said Dr Malik Merchant, consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central. (Source-Indian Express)

In the disastrous situation, it is important for us to not to look at the statistical data of cases that serve no purpose to common people, not to use social media much, follow a disciplined routine, pursue creative or any productive activity while staying indoor and seek for spirituality. If not taken these steps, one can seriously suffer from misapprehension. Stay safe, focus on your health, and try your best to be negative with a positive mindset.


Khabar Khand

The Khabar Khand. Opinion of Democracy

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