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Monday, May 10, 2021

Maharashtra plans to tap steel and thermal power plants for oxygen

In a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the health department discussed starting small Covid centres close to thermal plants to directly supply oxygen to patients and cut transportation time. It is also not possible to bottle oxygen from these plants into cylinders.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: April 21, 2021 3:08:09 am
NCP workers protest against lack of oxygen and ventilators at the Thane Municipal Corporation headquarters on Tuesday. (PHoto: Deepak Joshi)

MAHARASHTRA PLANS to tap into iron and steel plants and thermal power plants to divert oxygen for medical use. In a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the health department discussed starting small Covid centres close to thermal plants to directly supply oxygen to patients and cut transportation time. It is also not possible to bottle oxygen from these plants into cylinders.

Maharashtra’s daily oxygen requirement has risen to 1,550 MT, much above its production capacity of 1,250 MT. The state relies on other states for 300 MT supply daily.

There was discussion on whether Covid centres could be built near the state’s four thermal plants — in Parli, Paras, Koradi and Khaparkheda — to connect a pipeline. These plants do not have a bottling unit to compress and fill oxygen in cylinders. A pipeline would straight go into the Covid centre and a valve would regulate its pressure.

Similarly, an iron and steel plant in Wardha will soon be utilised for medical oxygen use. The plant will be able to provide over 100 MT oxygen, which will satisfy the requirement of nearby districts. State officials said they are looking for all viable options to generate oxygen within the state and looking at more iron and steel plants for this purpose.

Shiv Sena Minister Eknath Shinde also requested in the cabinet meeting that the state government set up a 100 MT oxygen plant. “It will be used for Covid now and later can be used by district hospitals and medical colleges after the pandemic is over,” he said.

Senior health officials in the government said they expect the state’s second peak in Covid cases soon if daily cases continue to range between 60,000-65,000 for the next few days. On Tuesday, 62,097 cases were recorded in Maharashtra, taking active caseload to 6.83 lakh. As many as 519 deaths were reported on Tuesday. Officials said they will closely watch the daily caseload over this week to draw a definite pattern in the Covid curve.

Maharashtra’s growth rate has dipped from 13.1 per cent between April 4-11 to 12.6 cent in April 11-18. With tighter restrictions from Wednesday, daily cases are expected to drop further. Officials said they expect cases to start declining in May. “We are hopeful the peak will be recorded within a few days,” a senior official said.

Month-wise data shows daily cases in February were 4,690, which rose to 21,222 in March and 47,116 in April in Maharashtra. But compared to other states, Maharashtra is showing signs of slowing down the growth rate. Its daily growth rate is 1.53 per cent, lower than 17 other states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar and Gujarat.

Five districts— Pune, Mumbai, Thane, Nagpur, Nashik— continue to contribute to 60 per cent of active cases in state. Of 6.7 lakh active cases, 2.46 lakh are hospitalised. Of them 19,471 are in ICU and 4223 on ventilator. The state’s positivity rate is 25.5 per cent, and there are 12 districts with more than 30 per cent positivity rate.

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