Fearing shortage, people rush to buy oxygen now

Oxygen is just like a medicine and to be taken under supervision

Picture: Pixabay

NEW DELHI: If it was groceries in Lockdown 1.0, it is oxygen cylinders in Unlock 1.0.

As Covid-19 cases in urban centres rise, people fearing shortage of hospital beds are stocking up on oxygen cylinders to ensure they can take care of respiratory issues even at home. Demand for oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators has suddenly seen a sharp increase in metros, especially Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. What has underlined the importance of oxygen cylinders is the government’s emphasis on checking oxygen saturation in home isolation patients.

Ashish Grover, general secretary of Confederation of All India Traders and Delhi Drugs Traders Association, told ET, “There has been a sudden increase in demand for oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators. This has not only led to a shortage in the market but also an increase in prices.”

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If a 10-litre oxygen cylinder unit with complete rotameter regulator mask was available in the market for Rs 6,500 at the beginning of the pandemic, it is not available even at Rs 8,000 now. Grover said: “People are calling suppliers every day. If we get 20 inquiries, we can supply about four or five.” The oxygen concentrator machine, ahighly specialised electrical equipment, is usually priced between Rs 42,000 and Rs 1 lakh. With a sudden demand, the base price has increased to Rs 58,000 now. With this spike in demand, several companies have started offering oxygen cylinders, concentrators and mask on rent.

Grover said, “Due to a shortage in the market, there are companies offering package deals for oxygen cylinder, oxygen concentrators, mask and a nursing assistant. These package costs vary between Rs 15,000 and Rs 30,000 per day.” Standalone cylinders are also being given on rent at Rs 5,000-6,000 a day, Grover said. Medical professionals, however, caution against hoarding of cylinders.

“People should not store oxygen cylinders at home because the oxygen supply must be controlled by a doctor or healthcare provider… While shortness in breath is a Covid symptom, only 15% who are severely affected may suffer from severe breathing problems and require high quantities of oxygen flow to stay alive. Both high and low saturation of oxygen in blood can be dangerous,” said Rakesh Pandit, a senior consultant (internal medicine) at Aakash Healthcare and Super Speciality Hospital. “Oxygen is just like a medicine and to be taken under supervision. Only people with chronic respiratory disorders and are on oxygen concentrators round the clock can keep this as a backup.”

Doctors say that patients should monitor the oxygen saturation level but leave the decision on administering oxygen to healthcare professionals.

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