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West Bengal has started falling short of oxygen to treat Covid-19 patients with the rise number of cases, though till early last week supplies were higher than demand. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters on Friday that oxygen demand has shot up to 470 tonne a day in the last 24 hours, while the state is being supplied 307 tonne a day.
“I have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking for an increase in oxygen supplies to the state. The state health secretary has already taken up the matter with the Union health secretary, and we are looking as to how to get more supplies to the state,” Banerjee said.
She said the health department has estimated oxygen requirement to go up to 550 tonne a day within five to seven days.
After taking oath as a chief minister for her third term on Thursday, Banerjee met officials to draw up an action plan for Covid-19 management.
Early last week, the state health department had said West Bengal did not have an oxygen crisis of oxygen since production was more than demand. As of April 26, West Bengal’s oxygen requirement was 223 tonne a day, whereas production was 457 tonne a day, excluding the oxygen produced in steel CPSUs like Durgapur and Burnpur.
Oxygen from both the steel CPSUs has been supplied across the country. Till May 5, four oxygen expresses were loaded to supply to places other than West Bengal. While the last oxygen express loaded from Durgapur on May 5 carried 120 tonne in six containers, for the entire month of April the Durgapur and Burnpur units of SAIL supplied 2,220 tonne oxygen, a SAIL statement said.
Although Banerjee has not asked the Centre to retain the oxygen produced at Durgapur and Burnpur for the state, “she has the authority to prevent oxygen from going out of the state in the wake of rising number of Covid cases,” a state health department official said.
The department reported 1,961 new Covid-19 cases on Friday. The state has recorded 2,34,162 new cases between April 23 and May 6.