With the increasing demand for medical oxygen in various states in the country due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Union government on Thursday directed states and Union Territories to not impose any restrictions on inter-state transport of medical oxygen. The order comes in the backdrop of various state governments tightening transport restrictions amid a second wave.
According to the directive from the Ministry of Home Affairs to states and Union Territories, free inter-state movement of oxygen-carrying vehicles should be allowed.
The order also directed the states to not impose any restrictions on oxygen manufacturers to limit the supply only to hospitals in home states. â€śNo restrictions shall be imposed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit the oxygen supplies only to the hospitals of the states/UT in which they are located,â€ť it said.
No restrictions are also to be imposed on intra-state transport too, the order said. â€śNo authority shall attach the oxygen-carrying vehicles passing through the district or areas for making supplies specific to any particular district(s) or areas,â€ť it added.
â€śMedical 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,â€ť said the order issued by Union Home Secretary and Chairman of National Executive Committee.
Many hospitals in Delhi, which are said to be facing an acute shortage of medical oxygen, had been asking for help via social media. Dr Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals, had on Thursday said on social media that oxygen tankers were not being allowed to enter a supply plant in Haryana and police were stopping vehicles.
Amid the surge in demand for oxygen for medical use, the Union government has also prohibited the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, barring a few industries. The prohibition comes into force from April 22, till further orders.
District Magistrates, Deputy Commissioners and police heads in the states and districts are liable to implement the directions, the order further stated.
It also added that the states and Union Territories should abide by the supply plan of medical oxygen prepared and revised from time to time by the Empowered Group 2, a group of experts and officials from various ministries formed by the Prime Ministerâ€™s Office (PMO).
Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the Union government to ensure a special corridor for oxygen transportation, and adequate security for tankers carrying oxygen. The court also directed the government to take criminal action against anyone who obstructs the movement of medical oxygen.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level meeting to review the oxygen supply across the country. The PM directed officials to ensure there is a smooth and unhindered supply of medical oxygen. He also stressed the need to ensure faster transportation of oxygen to the states. It was discussed that the Railways were being used for rapid and non-stop long-distance transportation of tankers. And that the first rake had reached from Mumbai to Vizag to transport 105 MT of Liquid Medical Oxygen.
"Similarly, empty oxygen tankers are also being airlifted to the oxygen suppliers to reduce one-way journey time in oxygen supply," the Prime Minister's Office said.
(With IANS inputs)