New Delhi: Amid alleged reports of ‘oxygen shortage’ for Covid-19 patients across the country, the ministry of railways on Sunday has announced to run ‘Oxygen Express’ trains for the transport of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) and oxygen cylinders.
Noting that oxygen is a key element in the treatment of certain medical conditions in the Covid-19 infection, the railways ministry said it has explored the technical feasibility of transportation of LMO tankers at the request of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments.
The ministry said that a green corridor is being created to ensure fast movement of Oxygen Express trains, which will ply after the completion of technical trials. Following the trials, the railway ministry said, “empty tankers would be moved from Kalamboli, and Boisar railway stations in and near Mumbai, and sent to Vizag and Jamshedpur, Rourkela, and Bokaro, for loading of liquid medical oxygen tankers.”
The announcement comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a review meeting in which he directed that the installation of approved medical oxygen plants should be sped up. Officials said that 162 PSA oxygen plants are being installed in 32 states and Union territories from PM CARES and one lakh cylinders are being procured, which will be supplied to states soon.
“A supply mapping plan for 12 high burden states till 30th April has also been undertaken. The Prime Minister also said that supply of oxygen required for production of medicines and equipment necessary to handle the pandemic should also be ensured,” PM Modi’s office said in a statement.
On Friday too, PM Modi had reviewed the status of oxygen availability to ensure adequate supply and told officials to ensure seamless and free movement of tankers carrying oxygen across the country.
“The Government has exempted all interstate movement of oxygen tankers from registration of permits to enable easier movement. PM was informed that States and transporters have been asked to ensure tankers move round the clock with drivers working in shifts to ensure faster turnaround and adequate capacity to meet the surge in demand,” the Prime Minister’s office said, adding that cylinder filling plants will also be permitted to operate 24 hours with necessary safeguards.
The central government has also allowed industrial cylinders to be used for medical purpose after due purging. “Similarly nitrogen and argon tankers will be automatically allowed to be converted to oxygen tankers to overcome the potential shortage of tankers,” the statement further added. Efforts are also being made to import medical grade oxygen, officials are reported to have told Prime Minister Narendra Modi.