Delhi High Court slams 'ridiculous' oxygen shortage

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday criticised the central government for its handling of the oxygen crisis in the city.

India reported 2,023 deaths on Wednesday, its worst daily toll. More than 200 of those were from Delhi, where hospitals faced oxygen shortages.

The court was hearing a petition by the owner of six private hospitals.

It ordered the central government to ensure safe passage of oxygen supplies from factories to hospitals across India. "This is ridiculous. We want to know what the centre is doing with regard to oxygen supply across India," Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said in their verdict, adding that it is the responsibility of the government to "beg, borrow... steal" to ensure oxygen supplies.

A number of people across India have died in recent days while waiting for oxygen. Social media too has been filled with appeals for oxygen.

On Wednesday, 22 Covid-19 patients at the Dr Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik, Maharashta, died when the oxygen supply to their ventilators was disrupted by a leak.

The tragedy comes as India battles severe shortages of medical supplies during a fierce second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Crowds are gathering outside hospitals in major cities which are filled to capacity. Health services are also struggling to cope.

The Central government increased the supply of oxygen to Delhi from 378 metric tonnes a day to 480mt. But the roughly 27 per cent increase, announced on Wednesday evening, is still short of the 700mt a day that the state government said it needs.

Delhi is struggling to manage a frightening surge in Covid-19 cases. The city has over 80,000 active cases and has reported more than 20,000 new cases a day since April 18.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said on Wednesday that many need oxygen if they are to survive.

India has seen a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases over the past month, driven by lax safety protocols, huge election rallies and a Hindu festival attended by millions.

Critics have also pointed to the lagging vaccination drive, which experts say needs to pick up quickly to contain the spread.

India has so far administered more than 130 million doses, but the drive has been restricted to health workers, frontline staff and those above the age of 45 and anyone with comorbidities.

From May 1, people above 18 will also be eligible. But a supply crunch could slow it down further.

Indo-Asian News Service

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