Andhra Pradesh looking for ways to end oxygen transportation bottlenecks; announces free vaccination for all

Published : April 25, 2021 10:56 IST

An oxygen generator plant getting ready on the King George Hospital premises in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, on April 21. Photo: K.R. DEEPAK

The Andhra Pradesh government has declared that the State will provide free COVID-19 vaccination to all those who are in the 18 to 45 age group. Officials estimate the number of people in this category in the State at 2,04,70,364. They said Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had spoken on phone to Krishna Ella, managing director of Bharath Biotech, the manufacturer of Covaxin, and requested him to supply the vaccine doses as per the requirement of the State.

Andhra Pradesh, which as of 6 p.m. on April 24 had 81,471 active COVID-19 cases, has in recent days had serious issues with a shortage of vaccine despite repeated letters to the Centre for vaccine supply. As of April 24, the State had administered 56,68,351 vaccines.

Starting April 24, the State will also be under a 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. night curfew, with shops, restaurants and public places being shut. The Chief Minister has directed that rythu bazaars be decentralised and be made available at the ward level.

Andhra Pradesh, which is home to three producers of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) — Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited-Vizag Steel Plant (RINL-VSP) and Ellen Berries in Visakhapatnam and Liquinox in Srikakulam — has thus far not run short of oxygen. But the State has been facing delays in its transportation. Officials said that for the optimum supply of LMO across the State, between 100 and 120 cryogenic tankers would be needed. The State had allotted only 64 vehicles.

As per the allocations made by the Centre, every day Andhra Pradesh will get 100 tonnes of LMO from RINL-VSP, 60 tonnes from Liquinox, and 40 tonnes from Ellen Berries. Besides this, the State has been allocated 68 tonnes of LMO from producers in Bellary in Karnataka, and 10 tonnes from Sriperumbudur near Chennai. On April 21, Andhra Pradesh was additionally allocated 150 tonnes from Angul in Odisha.

While the Rayalaseema districts — Anantapur, Kadapa, Kurnool and Chittoor — are being catered to from Bellary, the rest of the State receives its supply from the Vizag/Srikakulam region, which is in the far north of the State and results in tankers having to travel 400 to 500 km to reach some of the districts. In addition to travel time, it takes around 6 hours to fill a tanker with LMO.

The State is also facing issues in bringing LMO from Angul in Odisha, the turnaround time being at least four days. Also, to seamlessly transport the allocated 150 tonnes a day, 30 to 40 tankers of around 20 tonne capacity each are needed. Arranging that many cryogenic tankers is almost an impossibility. Officials said other options were being considered to cut down the turnaround time.

At present the State utilises 320 tonnes of oxygen on an average every day in both government and private hospitals. Officials estimate that the State will need 515 tonnes of oxygen every day if all the 21,581 beds in over 150 designated COVID-19 hospitals get occupied. As of April 23, 11,789 of these beds were occupied, with 2,506 people being admitted in the last 24 hours.