Oxygen Concentrators Stuck in Customs, Says Hospital; Delhi HC Seeks Details From Centre

The Max Hospital of Delhi complained that 3,000 of its oxygen concentrators were stuck with the customs department.

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Monday, May 3, sought details from the Centre on the number of oxygen concentrators that are with the customs department awaiting clearance, at a time when Delhi continues to face a severe crunch of medical oxygen. It asked the Centre to respond by 3 pm on Monday, NDTV has reported.

The court’s directive came after senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal, representing Max Hospital, told the court that 3,000 oxygen concentrators belonging to the hospital were stuck with the customs department. Advocate Amit Mahajan, appearing for the Centre, replied that the number of concentrators is dynamic and 48,000 such consignments have been cleared, according to Bar and Bench.

A number of countries, including the US and the UK, have included oxygen concentrators as part of the medical aid being sent to India. However, they have been lying unused, awaiting clearance by authorities concerned, it has been reported.

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Oxygen concentrators filter other gases from ambient air and channel pure oxygen for personal use. The use of oxygen concentrators in the national capital and elsewhere in the country, recording a high number of COVID-19 cases, has gone up drastically. A number of hospitals in Delhi and other cities have been making SOS calls pleading for oxygen on social media, with hours and minutes left before supplies run out. Nearly 40 people have died in Delhi recently after oxygen ran out in hospitals.

In fact, the Delhi high court on Saturday, May 1, had also ordered the Centre that Delhi must receive its full quota of medical oxygen that day “by whatever means”.

“Water has gone above the head. You have to arrange everything now. You have made the allocations. You have to fulfil it. Eight lives have been lost. We can’t shut our eyes to it,” the bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli had said, according to NDTV.

The issue has also reached the Supreme Court, which ordered on May 2 that the deficit supply of oxygen to Delhi must be rectified on or before midnight of May 3. According to estimates, while the existing oxygen supply in Delhi stood at 490 metric tonnes a day, the projected demand has gone by 133% to 700 metric tonnes a day in recent times with the second wave of the pandemic.

“This situation must be remedied forthwith,” the apex court observed on oxygen deficit. The order was passed in the suo motu case taken up by the Supreme Court on COVID-related issues.