MUMBAI: Still reeling under a deadly second wave of COVID-19, Maharashtra may witness a third wave of the infection in July-August, said health minister Rajesh Tope on Thursday.
The grim prediction by Tope came on a day when Maharashtra, the state worst-hit by the pandemic in the country, recorded 66,159 fresh coronavirus cases and 771 fatalities.
Speaking to reporters here, he said, As per epidemiologists, Maharashtra could witness a third wave of COVID-19 in July or August.
“Maharashtra is trying to be self-sufficient in terms of availability of medical oxygen by then. It has been said the state could reach to the plateau level of COVID-19 cases by the end of May. If it is hit by a third wave in July or August, it would increase the challenges before the state administration,” he said.
He was speaking after taking part in a review meeting with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray where various aspects of COVID-19 management and vaccination were discussed.
District collectors and divisional commissioners also took part in the virtual meeting.
“During the discussion, the chief minister stressed on setting up 125 PSA (pressure swing adsorption (PSA) plants (for generating medical oxygen) at the earliest for treating patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 infection,” Tope said.
District collectors were told the government will not tolerate any complain about non-availability of oxygen when the state is hit by a third wave, said the health minister.
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Maintaining that the current requirement of oxygen is being met through local generation as well as supplies from the Centre, he said Maharashtra is facing a shortage of 10,000 to 15,000 vials of Remdesivir, used to treat critical COVID-19 patients.
Though there is a shortage, we have asked doctors to use it judiciously.
Extra doses could lead to grave side effects, he said.
Tope said the chief minister informed the meeting that he has told business houses and corporates that if they spend on setting up COVID-19-related facilities, that money will be considered as CSR expenditure.
“They can avail all benefits related to CSR spendings and this will also ease financial burden on the state,” the health minister said.
We will try to set up oxygen generator plants, arrange oxygen concentrators as well as provide medical equipment such as CT scan and MRI machines to districts where these facilities are not available,” he said.
Districts such as Hingoli, Jalna, Parbhani, Osmanabad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Washim and Gadchiroli will get tele- medicine services where COVID-19 patients with other health issues can seek consultancy from doctors based in major cities, Tope said.
Maharashtra, which has so far reported 45,39,553 coronavirus cases and 67,985 fatalities, is under lockdown- like restrictions till May 15.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday asked district officials to make plans for new oxygen plants and stocking of medicines in view of the threat of a third COVID-19 wave.
The chief minister spoke to district collectors, divisional commissioners and municipal commissioners virtually to take a stock of the pandemic situation, said an official release.
Due to the recently introduced restrictions, the daily spike in cases has stabilised, but the administration has to be very careful and plan for the possibility of a third wave, he said.
“To stop a third wave, vaccination needs to be expedited. Even though we have announced free vaccination for the age group of 18 to 44, supply needs to be planned,” he said.
Permission has been given for setting up oxygen plants and the district administration needs to ensure that adequate oxygen stock is available in near future, Thackeray said.
There should be a registry of migrant labourers and when they return from their home states, they should be tested and quarantined if needed, the chief minister said.