India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has directed all state governments to ensure a smooth and hassle-free supply of medical oxygen across the country as its confirmed cases of Covid-19 continue to rise.

At the time of writing, India has just under 5,000 cases and 137 fatalities according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

This has risen in recent days despite the country known to have been on a strict nationwide lockdown since 24thMarch as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As reported by various sources including The Times of India and Times News Now and Outlook India, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla has written a letter to all the state Chief Secretaries in recent days to give special attention to keeping an adequate supply of medical oxygen in their respective hospitals.

Oxygen is the largest revenue generating industrial gas In India, according to gasworld Business Intelligence, though this is predominantly linked to the sale of oxygen to the steel and wider metallurgy sector.

The Indian industrial gas sector has an unusually large onsite business for a developing country, with a large number of steel clients that have been ‘weaned’ off captive owned and operated supply solutions in the last decade.

gasworld understands that in most normal circumstances, ASUs (air separation plants) tend to operate at around 75-85% of their maximum capacity, an optimal operational balance between supply and demand. This means that in the context of any significant outbreak of coronavirus and patient care in a given region, the output of oxygen – a product not often associated with short supply – can be increased as demand requires and without the construction of any new plants.

It should also be considered that if industrial consumption could be expected to decrease due to lockdowns and lower economic activity, then ‘spare’ volumes of oxygen might also be available for medical usage.