Russia has offered to supply medical oxygen and Remdesivir to India and imports are likely to begin in the next 15 days. Indian hospitals have been reporting dwindling supplies of oxygen due to the surge in Covid-19 cases in the country. Stocks of antiviral drug Remdesivir used to treat the disease, have also been running out.
Moscow has said it can supply 300,000-400,000 Remdesivir injections per week, which would be increased. Talks are on to begin oxygen supplies by ship soon, officials said.
“Russia has offered to supply 3-4 lakh Remdesivir per week and the numbers can go up. Also, oxygen supply will start via ship soon,” said an official.
The government has already waived customs duty on the import of Remdesivir, which is used to treat Covid patients. It is also exploring the idea of extending the expiry date for the drug. India has banned exports of Remdesivir.
Oxygen Output Raised to 7,800 MT
As per government estimates, India’s oxygen production capacity was 6,000 metric tonnes (MT) per day a few weeks ago. It has since been raised to 7,800 MT. Oxygen consumption in the country has jumped to 4,000 MT daily from a fourth of that before the pandemic in the healthcare sector. The government has ordered the diversion of industrial oxygen toward medical use to meet the shortfall. India plans to import 50,000 MT of medical oxygen to meet the surging demand. “Russia has said it can begin Remdesivir supplies in the next 15 days,” said another official.
The issues were discussed at a meeting held on Monday by external affairs minister S Jaishankar and commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal with Indian missions abroad on ways to combat the pandemic.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), as per the second official cited, conveyed that oxygen supplies to India may get hindered due to the shortage of ISO tank containers for the movement of liquid oxygen. Industry has already raised the issue of lack of cryogenic tankers to transport oxygen. The government has prohibited supply of the gas for industrial purposes, barring energy facilities, oxygen cylinder manufacturers, wastewater treatment plants, food and water purification and process industries, which require the uninterrupted operation of furnaces.