India plans to import oxygen containers, press IAF into service

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New Delhi: India is deliberating on importing oxygen containers and equipment from friendly foreign nations to address the oxygen crisis faced by the country in the middle of the raging second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Central government is also planning to press the Indian Air Force (IAF) into airlifting oxygen containers and equipment from other nations.

“The deliberations are still on,” said a source, adding that the places from where these containers and other equipment could be airlifted have been identified.

The source said that the problem India is facing in importing oxygen is transportation due to an acute shortage of containers to carry the life saving gas. The government is in talks with all the stakeholders in this matter.

With the second wave of COVID-19 hitting India hard, the Centre has roped in the Indian Air Force to airlift oxygen cylinders, regulators, and essential medicines as the National Capital Region faces shortage of oxygen cylinders and medicines.

The IAF has started airlifting personnel, doctors and nursing staff to help the government battle the pandemic.

Sources said that the IAF has airlifted doctors and nursing staff from Kochi, Mumbai, Vizag and Bengaluru for setting up of a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) COVID-19 hospital in Delhi.

The force has also airlifted oxygen containers from the DRDO in Bengaluru for the COVID-19 centres in Delhi.

On Tuesday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had directed all the defence establishments to set up more COVID-19 hospitals, use emergency powers and bring in retired personnel to tackle the crisis.

A roadmap on how military infrastructure can be used to ramp up the fight against COVID-19 was also discussed in a COVID-19 preparedness review meeting chaired by the minister.

The DRDO had stated that it has set up a COVID-19 hospital in Delhi with 250 beds, and the capacity will be increased to 500 and then to 1,000, if required.

Rajnath Singh had instructed that more fully functional COVID-19 hospitals should be set up in Lucknow, Patna, Varanasi and Ahmedabad within 8-10 days and also at other places where they are required.

He said that the ESIC Hospital, which was converted to a COVID-19 hospital in Patna, has started functioning with 500 beds. He added that work is on at a war footing to set up a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, a 750-bed hospital in Varanasi and a 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad.

There were also discussions on roping in retired military doctors and nursing staff for assistance if they are willing to volunteer.

The minister had also suggested to utilise the services of vaccinated retired armed forces personnel to assist the civil administration and state governments to deal with the current situation.