The Tamil Nadu government Saturday said it would invoke the Goondas Act against people attempting to hoard remdesivir and oxygen cylinders. The warning comes at a time hundreds are queuing up for the Covid treatment drug in front of government-run outlets with prescriptions from private hospitals.
“Anti-social elements are hoarding Remdesivir to sell for a higher price in the black market,” said a statement from Chief Minister M K Stalin, calling it a serious offence.
Though Tamil Nadu has an inadequate supply of remdesivir—the state is still waiting for fresh stocks—all its government hospitals are adequately stocked with the medicine.
The government, however, had open retail counters at Kilpauk Medical College two weeks ago after many private hospitals that were short of the medicine started sending out patients’ relatives to get it.
With crowds swelling by the day, the state government opened more retail outlets in Salem, Trichy and Madurai. Recently, the counters at Kilpauk Medical College were shifted to Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium due to the increasing crowd.
Even Nehru Stadium is now seeing large crowds, with people lining up for the medicine from Friday night itself.
According to a submission before the Madras High Court, the state government was mobilising stocks to sell at least 20,000 vials per day through more outlets.
Police said they seized some 205 vials. A patient normally requires six vials which would cost around Rs 9,000.
Oxygen shortage is another challenge for smaller private hospitals. The supply so far is adequate for many private hospitals and almost all government hospitals. But the smaller private hospitals which depend on oxygen cylinders are struggling for supplies as their usual refill systems are exhausted amid huge demand.
“There is a centralised system in place, there are coordinations to ensure the supply, but it would be a tough job for suppliers as well as hospitals to run the show when the demand for medical oxygen has gone up with the number of Covid-19 cases,” said a senior government official.