Maha: Pandemic Unlockdown now hinges on ‘Oxygen availability’

Mumbai: In a unique move, the Maharashtra government has decided to make the availability of medical oxygen as the centre of its pandemic second wave Unlockdown policy, whereby easing of restrictions started after over two months from Monday, (today, June 07), a top official said.

The state has started the Unlock process dividing the districts and civic bodies into Levels 1,2,3,4,5, with the restrictions based on oxygen bed occupancy status and case positivity rate.

As per the latest Unlocking rules, the government has stressed on ‘State Level Oxygen Trigger’ as the liquefied medical oxygen is “the most critical resource” for the treatment of Covid-19, as the state’s easing started on a 5-Level scale.

Presently, the state’s LMO production capacity is 1,200 tonnes/day, but there are serious challenges in importing oxygen from other states as well as internally transporting it to remote areas in the state, noted Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte.

The government is now taking its measures to contain the spread of the Coronavirus “much before the number of patients requiring oxygen-based treatment overwhelms the state’s oxygen production capacity,” he said.

Kunte pointed out that on an average of 1,000 patients require 20 tonnes of oxygen daily, hence the state can support 60,000 patients from its own LMO production of 1,200 tonnes daily.

This necessitated the need for the ‘State Level Oxygen Trigger’ whereby if the total patients on oxygen beds are over 45,000-50,000 irrespective of the trend of oxygen bed occupancy, then no other local parameters like Covid positivity rate would apply and the state shall be above Level 4.

Similarly, if the oxygen beds occupancy is between 35,000-45,000, or higher but with a reducing trend, those areas shall be above Level 3.

On each Thursday, the Public Health Department will make a state-level audit of the same and announce the oxygen beds occupancy besides district level positivity rate and oxygen beds occupancy, Kunte said.

Thereafter, the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) will be empowered to take the necessary steps to further ease/tighten restrictions, which would be applicable from the following Monday.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced on Sunday that depending on the local situation, the local district Collectors were authorized to tighten/ease the curbs in their respective areas.

He further hinted that in case of violations, overcrowding or improper implementation of the norms, the local authorities would be held directly responsible for the same.

Terming it as “a most innovative initiative” Covid-19 expert Dr. Pradeep V. Mahajan, who is Chairman of StemRx Biosciences Solutions Pvt. Ltd., said that it will effectively “strengthen the system beforehand to ensure it can handle any surge of cases if something goes wrong in the Unlockdown”.

“Now, the government will know how many new cases may come up and what’s the advance preparation to handle them by way of hospital beds, oxygen availability, the medical staff, etc., and it needs to be emulated elsewhere in the country,” Mahajan told IANS.

Currently, the SDMA and other district or municipal authorities are keeping close tabs on public behaviour, adherence to rules, the crowd patterns in both rural and urban areas, etc as the Unlocking process kicked off today across the state as per the 5-Level policy, with Mumbai falling in Level 3.