Severe hypoxia has seen states closely guard their supplies and have even placed armed police at production plants to ensure security.
Gunfire screams, a convoy of police cars escorting an oxygen van arrived at the hospital in the Indian capital in time, before the great relief of doctors and relatives of patients COVID-19 who were count on supplies to prevent death.
India on Friday announced the world’s largest daily COVID-19 hit for the second day, with 332,730 new cases and 2,263 deaths, when a pandemic broke out out of control.
Severe hypoxia – essential for the survival of critical COVID-19 patients – means states are closely guarding their supplies and even setting up armed police at production plants to ensure security.
Several hospitals, including Shanti Mukand in western New Delhi with 110 COVID-19 patients, said they had almost exhausted their oxygen supplies on Thursday. The prospects for patients and their distraught families were dire.
Bhirendra Kumar, who has a COVID-19 positive father who was admitted 10 days ago said: “The hospital came to see us and asked us to make arrangements on our own.
“We’re not an oxygen company – how can we sort it out ourselves?”
Earlier in the day, the CEO of Sunil Saggar Hospital was in tears when describing some patients’ decision to leave the hospital because the lack of oxygen meant that his hospital could do nothing to help.
At the hospital’s oxygen supplier, Stainless Steel in the state of Uttar Pradesh, about an hour from the capital, a dozen trucks from cities across northern India were waiting to refuel.
Half a dozen drivers told Reuters they had waited up to three days to be filled with trucks, as demand soared from hospitals in the capital and elsewhere outstripping supply.
Vakeel, the sole holder, has been the driver of Inox since 1994. He said the demand level was unprecedented.
“Every hospital wants to triple or quadruple what they have done before,” he said.
The stainless steel mill regularly receives visits from government officials and police, some using assault rifles, ensuring that there are not any disruptions in supply.
An Uttar Pradesh policeman said they had been ordered to escort the truck to the waiting hospital.
Although additional security is welcome, an onsite supervisor said the need cannot be met.
“Even if we build five other factories here, we won’t be able to do it,” said the unnamed supervisor due to the sensitive situation.
Finally, a truck left the factory, arriving at a New Delhi hospital on Thursday night.
A relieved crowd of doctors and relatives gathered outside to wait for the truck to enter.
“Some things in life are difficult,” said the director of the Saggar hospital as the needle on the hospital’s container ticked from close to zero. “You have to learn to manage.”
But pardon is only temporary. “Every day is like this,” said Saggar.
In less than 24 hours, the hospital will have to do it all again, as the needle sinks towards the emptiness of new supplies, hopefully, on the way.