Karnataka to increase number of oxygen plants and testing to control spread of COVID-19 during winter season

Nandita Vijay, BengaluruFriday, November 6, 2020, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Karnataka government sees the need to increase the number of oxygen plants and augment the COVID-19 detection tests to control the transmission of the virus. The recent serological survey has revealed that out of the state’s 7.07 crore estimated population, the survey accounted that 1.93 crore or 27.3% of the people are either currently infected or already had the coronavirus disease infection in the past.

This has led the government to take pragmatic steps to control the transmission of the virus especially with the onset of winter season. The state has been known for its Influenza Like Illness (ILI) and SARI (severe acute respiratory infection).

Cold weather can increase the flu like symptoms and Bengaluru has also known to be the asthma capital aggravating cases of SARI, said Dr Satyanarayana Mysore, pulmonologist, Manipal Hospital.

According to the Karnataka health and medical education minister Dr K Sudhakar, the state will formulate strategies during the upcoming festive and winter season. Also there is a need to keep a close watch on the ILI and SARI cases and the international passengers coming into the state.  Certain districts with a high infection fatality rate suggest that clinical care needs to be improved at these locations.

COVID-19 causes fall in oxygen levels particularly among ILI and SARI cases, besides those with co-morbidities. In September, Karnataka like other states did see a four time increase in demand for medical oxygen from 100 to 150 metric tonnes during pre COVID-19 phase to 400 to 500 metric tonnes during the pandemic. The state has made every effort to ensure adequate supply of medical oxygen to all the hospitals.

“Hence Karnataka also needs more number of medical oxygen plants,” said Dr Sudhakar.

There are seven companies in the state manufacturing oxygen. Of these, four are in Ballari district. The remaining three are Bhoruka Gases, Bengaluru, Praxair India, Gingera in Koppal and Universal Air Products, Kunigal in Tumakuru. The state’s directorate of commerce and industries has asked all oxygen manufacturers in the state to increase their production capacity.

Moreover, the government has now implemented the notification of the medical oxygen transportation cost as per the NPPA notification. The price of liquid oxygen per cubic metre is Rs. 15.22, oxygen inhalation in gas form is at Rs. 25.71 per cubic metre and now it has also fixed the transportation costs of the same. For up to 10 tons carrying capacity maximum charges is Rs. 35 per kilometer. Above 10 and up to 15 tonnes the rate is Rs. 40. Above 15 to 20 tons is Rs. 45, between 20 to 30 tonnes it is Rs. 52.50 and above 30 tonnes it is Rs. 60. The GST and other taxes are applicable. The government order issued is applicable till March 31, 2021.

For instance, transporting of up to 10 tonnes, medical oxygen from Ballari to Mangaluru in the state, which is a distance of 900 kilometres to and fro, the charge will be 900x35=Rs. 31,500, said Amaresh Thumbagi, additional drugs controller, Government of Karnataka.