This week, India crossed a grim milestone—over 200,000 people have officially died due to the Covid-19 virus. The situation in the country is dire—patients and their desperate families are scrambling to secure potentially life-saving resources to avoid joining the long queues forming outside the country’s overburdened crematoriums. Social media platforms remain cluttered with urgent appeals for everything from drugs like remdesivir and favipiravir to blood plasma. The most glaring shortfall, though, has been Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO).
A breathless country
No room to breathe: India’s oxygen scarcity isn’t just about production
After being caught unprepared for a lethal second wave, India has ramped up its oxygen production and sought foreign help. Fundamental problems with India’s oxygen supply chain, however, could keep India’s oxygen tanks empty
India’s oxygen needs have shot up to over 11X of its pre-pandemic demand, almost all of which needs to be directed towards medical use
While production is being ramped up to over 9,000 metric tonnes per day, there are not enough tankers to supply oxygen to its end point in hospitals or patients' homes
Efforts to speed oxygen transport through rail and even air-lifting empty tankers has also been limited in impact, while oxygen plants promised by the govt are a long way away
With oxygen supplies scarce, a black market has emerged. Vendors are selling oxygen cylinder refills at up to 4X the price, while oxygen concentrators have also become more expensive