28th April, 2021:
With India kicking off the world’s most extensive vaccination program on 16th January 2021 and the total number of active COVID-19 cases around hundred and fifty thousand and daily cases just over ten thousand, the mood was upbeat. Life was slowly but surely coming back to normal.
India had surprised the rest of the world with how it had handled the pandemic and won hearts worldwide by supplying 66 million vaccines to 95 countries around the world.
The sudden spurt in demand for Medical Oxygen when India was hit by the COVID pandemic in March last year stabilized in a few months. The Government of India (GOI) made a series of steps to ensure the availability and distribution of Medical Oxygen to hospitals and containment centers. None of the extraordinary measures (for example allowing industrial cylinders for use in Medical cylinders) has been revoked since the start of the pandemic. Still, most cylinder equipment manufacturers had diverted their capacity to meet the rising industrial demand, which rebounded after the lockdown was removed and the economy was allowed to breathe again.
It was suggested after the first wave that only about 5% (much less than the earlier predicted figure of 15%) of patients infected by COVID-19 needed Medical Oxygen support. Therefore, Oxygen supply to COVID-19 patients after the initial few months was not considered a challenge. Gas World articles also mentioned that as Oxygen is freely available in the atmosphere and only a small percentage of total Oxygen production is used for medical purposes, the concern if at all is distribution and not production.
Like a bolt from the blue, the 2nd covid wave hit India from Mid-March 2021. However, Oxygen availability, or lack of it, only became news after a month when daily COVID-19 cases exceeded two hundred thousand a day.
It would be fair to say that pandemic fatigue had also kicked in, and social distancing was the first casualty. The second cricket test match India vs England test match in Chennai started on 13th February with the authorities allowing 50% stadium capacity to be filled in.
However, we only started witnessing unprecedented demand for Medical Oxygen valves from 19th April and have been completely swept off our feet since then. The first distress call and SOS for urgent deliveries of Medical Oxygen valves came from EKC Limited who needed over a hundred thousand medical cylinder valves over the next two months. As India’s leading manufacturer of high-pressure gas cylinder valves, we soon started receiving calls from MNC’s and other regional and local gas companies, who have since ramped up their manufacturing facilities to meet the sudden demand for Medical Oxygen. Within 48 hours of the first call, we diverted 80% of our capacity to manufacture Medical Oxygen cylinder valves.
The Oxygen Crisis in India is the most significant worldwide news now, and the Indian government and Corporate India is doing everything possible to support the demand for Medical Oxygen.
On 18th April, restrictions were imposed by the GOI on the Industrial use of liquid Oxygen, designed to optimize and rationalize the consumption to meet the demand from hospitals.
Special Oxygen express trains were started to ensure tanks carrying liquid Oxygen reached the user sites within a few hours. The Indian air force also ferried empty tanks from the western part of India (where the demand was more severe) to the Eastern regions where the availability of liquid Oxygen was greater.
Even these measures did not prove to be adequate as demand continued to surge, and hospitals reported that they were left with a few hours of Oxygen and no cylinders for back up. Empty cryogenic containers have been airlifted from Singapore and Thailand, and most countries in the world are trying to help India with medical supplies and Oxygen ventilators, tanks, and cylinders.
Adani Group and Tata Steel have decided to import thousands of filled Oxygen cylinders from the Linde plant in Saudi Arabia. In the last few days, Tekno Valves has been busy designing and manufacturing adapters required to convert these cylinder valves with CGA 540 outlets to IS-3 outlet connection used in India.
We don’t know how long the crisis will last, but the good wishes and support we have received from our well-wishers and business partners worldwide have been very heartening.
We, at Tekno Valves, have been investing significantly in our production capacities and new technologies, and we could not have been more satisfied to be able to put them to use to support the current demand for Medical Oxygen valves.
We have completed our 50th year of business this year, and we have planned a series of events to commemorate the occasion. However, everything related to planning the celebrations has taken a back seat as all our resources, time and efforts are focused on supporting the country’s demand for Oxygen.