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Kerala, which had been sending surplus medical oxygen to neighbouring states, including Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, is facing severe crisis and pleading for life-saving gas due to the surge in covid-19 cases. The halt had a chain effect on the districts in neighbouring states that fall off from the glare of both the media and the government. After Kerala stopped supplying oxygen to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka due to the supply crunch, Karnataka stopped supplying oxygen to Maharashtra to sustain its oxygen requirements. Once transporting liquid medical oxygen to Tamil Nadu, Kerala is now receiving oxygen from Tamil Nadu plants.

Due to shifting dynamics of oxygen supplies, the most severely affected districts are Mangalore, Mysuru, Udupi in Karnataka and Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts of Maharashtra.

Besides Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh also requested the Central government to increase their quota of oxygen. Karnataka and Telangana are currently facing a severe crunch in oxygen supply. As covid cases continue to spike, it is expected that the demand for oxygen in Tamil Nadu will increase twofold in the coming days. However, due to Cyclone Tauktae that has left a trail of destruction in Kerala, the oxygen production in the state will remain affected for the next two days.

Worsening situation in Kerala

At present, Kerala is producing 212.34 tonnes of medical grade oxygen. The state’s oxygen production will likely remain affected due to tropical storm for the next two days. However, until the end of April, when Kerala saw a comparatively less number of infections, the state’s daily oxygen requirement was at around 100 MT — including for both Covid and non-Covid patients. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week, said it will be “practically impossible” to provide oxygen to other states. Citing the alarming number of over 4 lakh active cases, the state said it had ensured 450 MT of buffer stock and managed oxygen without putting pressure on the national grid and halted the oxygen distribution to other states. However, the rising number of patients needing hospitalisation will necessitate around 450 MT Oxygen by May 15, 2021, the chief minister said. Since then, the State Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation has installed oxygen plants in Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram.

After Maharashtra and Karnataka, Kerala ranks third in the highest number of cases in the country. Kerala on Saturday reported 32,680 fresh Covid-19 cases, pushing the caseload to 20,88,208, while the toll mounted to 6,339 with 96 more deaths. While the state has a lower death rate than other states, Kerala now has 4,45,334 active cases.

Noting the high case tally, days ahead of severe impact on health facilities due to cyclone Tauktae, the Chief Minister in another memo to the Prime Minister on Thursday said there could be disruptions in road transport which would impede timely oxygen supply necessary to save precious lives and urged to send at least 300 MT oxygen to the State from neighbouring storage points. An oxygen express train is on its way to Kerala with 118 tonnes of oxygen.

Karnataka is also suffering

Karnataka is the second most affected state in the country amid the devastating second wave. Karnataka reported 41,664 fresh cases on Saturday, pushing its tally to 21.71 lakh cases and 6,05,494. A total of 21,434 people have lost their lives due to Covid.

Karnataka has also reported deaths due to a shortage of medical oxygen. Until some days back, Kerala was supplying 36MT oxygen to Karnataka daily but was stopped due to its own emerging demand.

The nodal officer appointed to oversee the oxygen distribution, Munish Mudgil, said Karnataka needs around 1200 MT oxygen daily and is currently getting only 800 MT. Karnataka has been allotted a quota of 1015 MT oxygen daily.

Poor districts in Maharashtra Reel under oxygen crisis

The most affected state of the country, Maharashtra, is also reeling under severe oxygen shortage. The state has reported the maximum number of Covid deaths and cases in the country. Some of its border districts were dependent on Karnataka for their oxygen needs.

Presently, Karnataka has stopped the oxygen supply to Maharashtra from its Bellary plant. This had disrupted oxygen supply in the six districts of Western Maharashtra — Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri.

Karnataka’s Bellary plant used to supply around 50 MT oxygen to six districts of Maharashtra. State Minister of State Satej Patil, who had roots in Kolhapur, has requested the Centre’s intervention in the matter. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government has started making Kolhapur self-sufficient in oxygen production. The district currently produces 35 MT of its required medical oxygen requirement.

So far, Maharashtra has reported a total of 53 lakh cases, 4.94 lakh active cases and a total of 80,512 people have lost their lives to Covid.

Andhra urges installation of new plants

Andhra Pradesh requires 600 MT daily oxygen and is getting a supply of 590 MT. Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has ordered the installation of two plants with a capacity to produce 300 MT oxygen in Kadapa and Krishnapatnam which later could be used in steel plants. The chief minister had sent a letter to the Prime Minister requesting an increase in oxygen supply to 910 MT and 20 cryogenic tankers.

Recently, 11 patients died in the Tirupati Ruia Hospital due to the lack of oxygen. The cumulative coronavirus positive cases touched 14,11,320 in Andhra Pradesh. The active caseload in the state was now 2,07,467 and the death toll rose to 9,271.

Oxygen demand in Tamil Nadu to rise two-fold

Kerala was supplying 40 MT of oxygen daily to Tamil Nadu before the halt. The ISRO centre at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu is now supplying 14 MT oxygen to Kerala.

The chief minister MK Stalin shot a letter to the Centre last week requesting an increase in the oxygen quota of the state. Presently, Tamil Nadu consumes 440 tonnes of oxygen daily. However, the state may need an extra 440 MT of oxygen given rising cases, pushing its daily demand to 880 MT.

In Tamil Nadu, 13 patients died in Chengalpattu’s government hospital due to the lack of oxygen. Stalin had mentioned the incident in his letter to Prime Minister.

Tamil Nadu is the fifth most affected state in the country. The state has reported a total of 15.65 lakh cases and has 2.07 lakh active cases. At least 17,359 people have died due to covid infection.

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