Calling upon chief ministers of 11 high-burden states to unitedly fight the Covid pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that all efforts are being made to ensure seamless supply of oxygen and essential medicines. He said awareness should be created among people about the ground situation so that they do not indulge in panic buying.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal created a stir during the meeting when he recorded and telecast his speech in the closed-door session, prompting the Prime Minister to state that he is breaching protocol. Later, government sources alleged this was an attempt to politicise the whole issue as Kejriwal indulged in “drama” by pleading with the Prime Minister with folded hands that oxygen supply to Delhi from West Bengal and Odisha not be stopped by other states.
In his address to the chief ministers, Prime Minister Modi expressed concern over spread of the Covid virus to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, aggravating the situation. He said a collective effort is required to deal with the pandemic.
Modi spoke at length on the oxygen supply issue which has been in the news due to reports of deaths of patients across various states as hospitals have run out of oxygen. He enumerated the various steps being taken to increase the supply of oxygen.
PM Modi stated that the central government is working on all possible options to reduce the travel time and turnaround time of oxygen tankers. For this, Railways has started Oxygen Express. Empty Oxygen tankers are also being transported by the Air-Force to reduce one-way travel time. Sources said when Kejriwal suggested in the meeting that the announcement of oxygen express trains be expedited, the Prime Minister assured this has already been done.
“All the concerned departments and ministries of the government are also working together. Industrial oxygen has also been diverted to meet immediate requirements,” Modi said, according to a government statement. He urged the states to check hoarding and black marketing of oxygen and medicines.
The Prime Minister underlined that every state should ensure that no oxygen tanker, irrespective of where it is being sent, is stopped or gets stranded. He suggested that chief ministers should set up a high-level co-ordination committee to carry oxygen to different hospitals in their state. This Coordination Committee should ensure, he said, that as soon as there is allotment of oxygen from the centre, it can deliver oxygen as per requirement in different hospitals of the state immediately.
He also discussed details of his meeting with officials on Thursday on the oxygen supply situation. Modi later chaired a meeting on this issue on Friday with oxygen manufacturers to discuss all the options for increasing the oxygen supply.
This was the third meeting of the Prime Minister with Chief Ministers on the Covid fightback and the vaccination drive in the last five weeks. His stock taking of the oxygen supplies was the fourth such review in the last one week.
Kejriwal has sparred with Haryana over alleged stoppage of oxygen tankers which were headed for Delhi. In the meeting with the Prime Minister, he said Modi should make a phone call to CMs to allow unhindered movement of such tankers coming to Delhi.
The Prime Minister further said that testing and upgrading of resources should be done. More widespread testing should be conducted so that people get the facility easily.
The planned vaccination drive from May 1 when it will be opened to all above the age of 18 also came up during the meeting. The Prime Minister remarked that the vaccination programme, largest in the world, should not slow down.
More than 13 crore vaccine doses have been provided free of cost to the states by the Centre, Modi said.
Expressing concern over reports of fire and accidents in hospitals, Modi said safety of all medical facilities is very important. He referred to the recent incidents of oxygen leakage and fire at hospitals. The administrative staff of the hospital needs to be made more aware about the safety protocols, he said.
PM Modi also urged the administration to continuously make people aware so that they do not indulge in panic buying.
In a presentation made at the meeting, NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul highlighted the preparations being done to counter the new surge of infections. He also presented the roadmap for increasing the medical facilities and targeted treatment of patients. The presentation also covered efforts being made to boost medical infrastructure, teams and supplies; clinical management; containment; vaccination and community engagement.