COVID crisis: Oxygen tankers from Thailand arrive in India; Air India steps up effort

By PTI
NEW DELHI: A consignment of containers for transportation of medical oxygen arrived in India from Thailand while some more empty tankers will be airlifted from Singapore and Dubai on Tuesday, the Union home ministry said.

The containers from Thailand were the third such consignment to be flown to the country in the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) transport aircraft by the home ministry amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and a subsequent increase in demand for medical oxygen.

“Some glimpses of airlift of oxygen containers from Bangkok by IAF last night. The airlift is being coordinated by MHA. It will enhance oxygen availability amid current COVID-19 surge,” a home ministry spokesperson said in a tweet, sharing pictures of the oxygen containers being loaded into an IAF aircraft.

In another tweet, the home ministry said, “IAF C17 transport aircraft gearing up to airlift more empty oxygen containers from Singapore today. These containers will further boost oxygen availability in the country in view of the current COVID-19 surge. The airlift is being coordinated by MHA.”

Later, the spokesperson said the airlift operations of empty containers continues and one more IAF transport aircraft reached Dubai on Tuesday to bring another lot of oxygen containers.

“The MHA is coordinating the airlift, which will upscale oxygen availability in the country during the current COVID-19 surge,” the spokesperson said.

The first consignment of empty oxygen containers was airlifted from Singapore on Saturday.

Another batch of containers was brought from Dubai on Monday.

All three aircraft carrying the containers landed in West Bengal.

From there, they were taken to oxygen generating sites to be filled up and for onward transportation to the high-demand areas, mostly through special trains.

India is struggling with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and hospitals in several states are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds as the number of cases rises.

The country’s COVID-19 caseload mounted to 1,76,36,307 on Tuesday with 3,23,144 more people testing positive for the viral disease.

The death toll climbed to 1,97,894 as 2,771 more fatalities were recorded, according to Union health ministry.

Since April 23, the home ministry has been coordinating efforts to deploy empty oxygen tankers and containers at various filling stations across the country to speed up the distribution of life-saving oxygen.

The central government is trying to source oxygen from different parts of the country and making it available to the worst-hit states by running special trains.

Meanwhile, Air India is going to airlift 10,636 oxygen concentrators from several countries in the next seven days, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Tuesday.

“Air India is airlifting 10,636 oxygen concentrators manufactured by Philips. 636 (concentrators) already flown in from US. Consignments flying in every day. Will be completed within this week,” Puri said on Twitter.

India is struggling with a second wave of the coronavirus infection and hospitals in several states are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.