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SC asks Govt for Covid management plan

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on April 22, 2021

Takes suo motu cognisance of issue of distribution of essentials like oxygen, medicines

Medical oxygen shortage and the logistic issues around its availability reached the doors of the Supreme Court on Thursday with the apex court asking the Centre to present a national plan on Covid-19 management, including supply of oxygen, essential drugs, vaccination and lockdown.

A Bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat said that it will also examine the judicial powers of High Courts to declare a lockdown as the Covid-19 second wave rages, as hearing by six High Courts on the issue may lead to confusion. The apex court, which issued a notice to the Centre on a national policy on Covid-19 management, will hear the matter on Friday. It has also appointed senior advocate Harish Salve as amicus curiae to assist it in the suo motu case on Covid-19 management.

The apex court’s directions came on a day when India reported 3.14 lakh new cases, the highest single day spike recorded in any country since the onset of the pandemic early last year.

In a bid to speed oxygen supplies, the Union Home Ministry issued an order directing States/Union Territories to ensure that no restriction is imposed on the movement of medical oxygen and that their transport authorities must be instructed to allow free inter-State movement of vehicles carrying oxygen.

Besides, immediately banning supply of oxygen for industrial use, the order also specified that no stipulation should be imposed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit supplies only to the hospitals of the State/UT in which they are located.

Simultaneously, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review the medical oxygen supply situation. Modi reiterated its judicious use and its smooth transport. The meeting also discussed movement by the Railways of oxygen tankers, non-stop over long distances.

According to an official statement, against the present demand from 20 States of 6,785 tonnes/day of liquid medical oxygen, the government has from Wednesday allocated to them 6,822 tonnes. “In the last few days, availability of Liquid Medical Oxygen has been increased by about 3,300 tonnes/day with contributions from private and public steel plants, industries, oxygen manufacturers as well as through prohibition of supply of oxygen for non-essential industries,” an official release said.

It added that the Prime Minister was informed that they are working with the States to operationalise the sanctioned PSA oxygen plants as soon as possible.

On Friday, too, the Prime Minister will review the Covid situation and separately interact with the Chief Ministers of high-burden States. This will be followed by a meeting with oxygen manufacturers.

With inputs from agencies

Published on April 22, 2021

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