As many hospitals are reporting a shortage of oxygen amid the increasing coronavirus cases, the Punjab government on Saturday ordered the closure of operations at the state’s iron and steel industry to divert oxygen for medical use.
The order was issued as oxygen along with LPG is used in induction, arc furnaces and rolling mills to cut and shape the iron and steel items to be used by different industry verticals. Iron and steel units are mostly concentrated in Ludhiana and Mandi Gobindgarh.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also ordered the immediate establishment of oxygen control rooms at the state and district level.
After ordering the closure of industrial operations at iron and steel plants, said the Chief Minister in a statement, that the state government will tell its decision to the centre.
The movement has come hours after six patients died at a private hospital in Amritsar due to an oxygen shortage.
Using stock of the situation, the Chief Minister said the current allocation of oxygen to Punjab is not enough to meet its needs and said he has already taken up the matter with the Centre, asking for an increase in quota on an urgent basis.
The Chief Minister noted that a sudden inrush of patients from neighbouring states has put an added burden on the oxygen demands of Punjab.
The Chief Minister also asked for a probability report from the Power Department on the use of thermal plants for providing oxygen for medical use.
Over the past few days, Punjab has observed a sharp increase in demand for oxygen. The demand for oxygen currently stands at 250 metric tonnes per day and is further expected to go up to 300 MT in the coming days on account of increasing COVID cases.
Responding to reports of an increase in the price of oxygen by suppliers, Amarinder Singh asked Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation to discuss, negotiate and settle the pricing with bulk suppliers and notify the Principal Secretary, Medical Education and Research, of the final decision.
The Chief Minister also directed Punjab Health Systems Corporation to get 100 more oxygen concentrators, including 50 confirmed earlier, in addition to 234 already being used in COVID facilities, the statement said.