The Maharashtra government is considering diverting all industrial use oxygen supply for medical use, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said today — as the state records over half of the daily coronavirus cases (Covid-19) in India. Cautioning that health infrastructure in the state is likely to be overwhelmed in the next 15-20 days if Covid-19 cases continue the strong surge, the chief minister warned he would decide on a complete lockdown in the next two days.
Senior officials of Maharashtra said the government was going to impose stricter restrictions to ensure no crowding in public places rather than implement a complete lockdown.
Thackeray said in online interaction with newspaper owners, editors and distributors — a day after his public address on the issue — that his government would take a decision on imposing stringent measures to tackle the pandemic soon but did not confirm if there will be a statewide lockdown.
Maharashtra yesterday reported 47,827 new Covid-19 cases, the highest daily rise in more than six months. It’s the major portion of the 89,129 new cases in a day recorded in India.
With the demand for oxygen surging, the Maharashtra public health department had last month directed oxygen manufacturers to divert 80% of their stocks for medical use and retain the rest 20% for industrial purposes.
Thackeray said the state government was considering diverting even that 20% for medical use, because of the surge in cases and the “alarming” situation in the state.
A notification stating 80% of capping for medical use was issued on Tuesday. It said that the rule would apply to all of Maharashtra and stay in force till 30 June.
Thackeray said the state government was increasing testing and also not suppressing the news of “even a single positive” case.
“Lockdown is the last resort. If the public cooperates with the administration, we may not need a lockdown,” said Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope.
Thackeray’s tone was far sterner. “I am very well aware that a lockdown is damaging, but in a situation like this, we have to prioritise lives,” he said, adding that of the 2.2 lakh isolation beds in the state, nearly 62% are occupied, 48% of the ICU beds are taken, one-third of ventilator beds are occupied. “The state is increasing the health infrastructure, but how will you increase the number of health workers? The manpower has been stretched thin. The same people are roped in for vaccination, to conduct Covid tests and to even go door-to-door for follow-ups. Our health workers are doing everything without any complaints.”