Tamil Nadu

‘We’ve surplus oxygen and enough ventilators’

The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday asserted before the Madras High Court that it had sufficient hospital beds and vaccines to deal with COVID-19.

It also claimed to be producing a surplus amount of oxygen and in possession of adequate ventilators and Remdesivir to meet any exigency, including a sudden spurt in cases.

The submission was made before the first Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, who made a fervent appeal to the Centre to take into account that a large population of the country might not be able to afford the vaccines if they were sold by private companies for ₹400 a dose to the State governments and ₹600 to private hospitals.

Since the Centre had decided to permit inoculation of all citizens aged over 18 from May 1, the plight of the poor and the middle class, who are already in economic distress owing to the raging second wave of COVID-19, should be considered while the vaccine prices are fixed, the judges said. Additional Solicitor-General R. Sankaranarayanan agreed to convey the court’s concern to the Centre.

The observations were made at the hearing of an urgent suo motu public interest litigation petition taken up by the court on the basis of news reports that Remdesivir was being diverted from government hospitals to private ones and oxygen cylinders were being diverted from the State to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana without the government’s consent.

Making his submissions in response to the case, Advocate-General Vijay Narayan said the State had 31,000 vials of Remdesivir, and there was no shortage at all. He said the government was providing the drug to private hospitals, which did not have enough stock, at ₹783 per vial, though the maximum retail price of each vial was ₹4,800. Mr. Narayan said the State had a capacity to store 1,167 tonnes of oxygen and manufacture 400 tonnes a day. Additionally, 150 tonnes a day could be produced in Puducherry. However, the current usage in Tamil Nadu was only 250 tonnes a day; therefore, 65 tonnes of surplus oxygen was recently diverted to the neighbouring States, he said.

The court was told that 9,600 ventilators were available in government hospitals, and 5,887 of them had been earmarked for COVID-19 patients. The government also had many Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machines and 2,440 high-flow nasal oxygen cannulas. Private hospitals had 6,000 ventilators, of which 3,000 had been earmarked for COVID-19 patients

When the Chief Justice wanted to know the number of active cases, the Advocate-General said 84,361 was the latest figure available with him and sought time to submit the number of beds and vaccine doses available. After recording his submissions and observing that special regulations must be put in place for the counting of votes on May 2, the judges directed the High Court Registry to list the case again for Monday for submission of the data.

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 2:29:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/weve-surplus-oxygen-and-enough-ventilators/article34388746.ece

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