New Delhi: Asserting that there is no shortage of oxygen in any private or public COVID hospital in Uttar Pradesh, chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday asked officials to take action under the National Security Act and the Gangsters Act against “anti-social elements” who spread “rumours” and propaganda on social media and try to “spoil the atmosphere”, the Hindu reported.
Saying that the actual problem is “blackmarketing and hoarding”, the chief minister told journalists that the state government will conduct an audit of the life-saving gas in collaboration with various institutes.
“There is no shortage of oxygen in any COVID hospital, be it private or government. The problem is black marketing and hoarding, which will be tackled with a heavy hand. We are going to conduct an oxygen audit in collaboration with IIT Kanpur, IIM Lucknow and IIT BHU for proper monitoring of oxygen. The system of live tracking of oxygen demand, supply and distribution will be implemented,” the chief minister said, during a virtual interaction with select journalists.
According to the report, Adityanath claimed that a private hospital which had reported a shortage of oxygen, was found to be having sufficient oxygen. “Due to such people, fear is increasing among the public. Even those who don’t need it, are worried about oxygen cylinders,” Adityanath told the Hindu.
“It would be a huge mistake to take corona as normal viral fever. I am also in its grip. I have been following all COVID protocols since April 13 while in isolation,” PTI reported him as saying.
Adityanath said that oxygen is not in short supply provided only the needy use it. “Every infected patient does not need oxygen, cooperation is expected from the media in increasing awareness about this,” he said.
The chief minister claimed that the state government’s preparation for COVID management is better than before.
“We have made arrangements for oxygen plants in government institutions. There was a lack of this system in private institutions. Work is on to set up 31 new oxygen plants including 18 plants based on DRDO’s latest technology,” he said.
The chief minister told PTI that there is no shortage of drugs like Remdesivir in Uttar Pradesh.
When the demand increased, a state aircraft was sent to Ahmedabad and the drug was procured directly from the pharma company. Again, even this medicine is not required by all patients, he said.
Additional director general, law and order, Prashant Kumar, told the daily there is an attempt to tarnish the image of the government, and that some unscrupulous elements were indulging in rumour-mongering on social media and were posting similar messages repeatedly.
Kumar told the newspaper that officials have been directed to lodge FIRs and take strict action against such persons.
So far the UP Police have arrested 42 persons and recovered 239 oxygen cylinders and 688 vials of Remdesivir, the daily was told.
Handling oxygen supply
On April 21, an order issued by Adityanath prohibited the supply of oxygen to individuals, “except for those in serious conditions”. In order to curb hoarding of oxygen cylinders, the UP government made a prescription mandatory for buying oxygen or refilling cylinders.
However, there have been multiple reports over the shortage of COVID beds or patients being turned away by hospitals for COVID treatment in the state.
According to the Indian Express, a list of 96 private hospitals in Lucknow treating COVID patients was of no use as the numbers were found to be switched off or unreachable. In some cases, hospital officials told the newspaper that a referral was required from the central command centre for COVID or from the chief medical officer. The list of hospitals is provided by the Lucknow administration.
According to The Print, many people in home isolation, who are at risk and need oxygen supplementation, were not able to get oxygen supply due to the government order. Those who were found refilling oxygen from a gas plant in Lucknow were arrested. The report further said that even those with emergency letters from doctors and government hospitals were being sent back.
A police officer at the Murari Gas Station in Lucknow told the Print: “Around 500 people have come here. We understand their misery. Hospitals are not admitting them and now the government does not want to give them oxygen cylinders at home isolation either.”
“But we are helpless. We have been given orders to stop them from entering the gas plants,” the police officer further said.
According to the Hindu, at least two hospitals – including one for non-COVID-19 patients – in Gorakhpur reported depleting oxygen supply, risking the lives of those under critical care.
(With inputs from PTI)