The Whole “Oxygen” Fiasco Explained (Covid Update)

by Shoubhik Sen

Each day, 1000s of social media posts pop up, reflecting the dire shortage of Oxygen in our country to treat patients. However, do not confuse this with the air we breathe. In today’s Covid update, we shall see what Medical Oxygen. Additionally, we shall understand the Oxygen situation in our country.

Medical Oxygen & its Relation to Covid?

Though having the same base properties, Medical Oxygen is somewhat different from Regular Oxygen. The air that we breathe is a mixture of many gases, including 21% Oxygen. However, Medical Oxygen consists of 82% of pure Oxygen and is free of any contamination. There are 2 ways of creating the latter: –

  1. Air Separation Units: These carry out multiple processes of distillation and separation on atmospheric air. This splits the air into its different components, including the Oxygen.
  2. Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA): These plants take oxygen from the air and double the concentration. This gives enough oxygen supply for a large hospital onsite.
Air Separation Units

Now in the case of Covid-19, Oxygen levels in the body can drop drastically. However, this is mostly during severe cases. With reduced oxygen supply, the cells can’r carry their functions properly. Thus, if fresh Oxygen isn’t administered in time, organs will start to malfunction. Furthermore, it can also lead to death in extreme cases.

This is where Medical Oxygen comes in. Administering this will maintain apt oxygen levels in the body of the patient.


We can understand the shortage situation by looking at the demand and supply of Medical Oxygen in our country.

The D.P.I.I.T (Dept. for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade) has come up with 2 different figures of Oxygen demand in India. Firstly, it said that the demand has reached to about 7,200 Metric Tonnes. Secondly, another official said that since April, it has gone up to 8000 MT. Now let’s compare that to how much we produce.

It’s only now that the government claimed that they can ramp up Oxygen supply to about 7,000 MT. Futher increase is possible only once imports ramp up. One positive coming out of this is the fact that the production has risen leaps and bounds during this time; almost by 113%.

However, many experts blame the supply chain to be the main culprit behind the shortage. Reports say that India does not have enough cryogenic tankers to facilitate the round-the-clock transport of Medical Oxygen.


Is the Government doing Enough to deal with Oxygen shortage??

Our authorities are trying their level best to solve this Oxygen situation as much as possible.

  • Ministry of Railways began OXYGEN EXPRESSES that will carry liquid oxygen cylinders. One rode off on Thursday from Andhra Pradesh to Maharashtra while another went from Jharkhand to Uttar Pradesh. On the other hand, a second train flagged off from Lucknow to Bokaro via Varanasi. For the movement of the train, a green corridor was created between Lucknow to Varanasi.
  • Tankers filled with LMO are being transported by the Indian Railways’ roll on-roll of (Ro-Ro) service.
  • Last year, GoI floated a Rs. 200 crore tender for the supply of 162 PSA Plants to district hospitals across 32 states. Currently, only 33 of them have been installed. Plans are to install another 59 by April-end and 80 more by May-end. Combined, these will provide about 154 MT Oxygen.
  • Another tender is on the cards to import 50,000 MT of Medical Oxygen. However, imported oxygen will take around 3 weeks to arrive even after finalisation.
  • Government also prohibited Oxygen supply to all industries except 9, including Steel, Pharma, Petroleum and 6 others.
  • Furthermore in the Inter-Ministerial Emergency powered Group (EG2), the GoI claimed that India’s daily oxygen production capacity and current oxygen stock is more than 50,000 MT. Additionally, it said that this exceeded the daily consumption.
  • PM Modi plans to hold a series of high level meetings on this week, to review India’s Covid situation. Additionally, there will be meetings with leading Oxygen Manufacturers
  • Furthermore, PM asked officials to take urgent steps to increase production, speed up distribution and use innovative methods to provide Oxygen support to health facilities.
  • Centre also asked states and UTs to ensure that they place no curbs on Oxygen Manufacturers & Suppliers that are supplying to hospitals.
Oxygen Express
Oxygen Express started by GoI


These are hard times and it’s imperative we deal with this together. However, a bit of criticism is necessary to gauge the situation at full glance. The government is trying it’s best to ensure uninterrupted supply of Oxygen to all states and UTs and some of these efforts will pay off big, if successful.

Right now, all we can do is stay safe and look out for others. Take your precautions and maintain adequate Covid Appropriate Behaviour.

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