Concerns over oxygen supply have started to emerge in Pakistan after the nation reported its highest coronavirus (Covid-19) second wave case spike on Sunday (18th April).

Over 6,000 new cases and 149 deaths were reported by Pakistan’s Ministry of National Health Services on Sunday, according to the official twitter account of the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Government of Pakistan.

At the time of writing, Pakistan has just over 761,400 cases and 16,316 fatalities according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. Those numbers compare to 21,500 cases and 486 fatalities reported by gasworld on 5th May (2020).

Read more: Pakistan struggle with Covid-19 continues

Whilst such news triggered various reports, which highlighted the need for accelerated vaccine rollout, the shocking figures led to Asad Umar, Federal Minister for Planning and Development and Head of the National Command Operations Centre (NCOC), reporting that oxygen supply in the country is “now under stress”. 

Umar’s statement on oxygen supply broke just hours ago. Within his announcement, Umar stated, “Hospital fill up continuing to grow. Critical care patients now above 4500, which is 30% higher than peak in June last year. Oxygen supply capacity in the country is now under stress. Sop compliance remains low. We are making a huge mistake by not following sop’s.”

In a separate tweet, he also addressed the Covid-19 battle in Pakistan’s neighbouring countries. Umar’s tweet stated, “Global covid cases exceeding 750,000 per day and deaths more than 13,000. We are seeing some of the worst numbers since covid started. Our neighbourhood in severe crises. Daily deaths in Iran more than 300 and India more than 1600. Need for safety precautions greater than ever.”

The day before (17th April) releasing the above statements, Umar said the vaccination of people aged from 50-59 would begin on Wednesday 21st April. He encouraged everyone to register for the vaccination.

Karina Kocha, Business Intelligence Manager, explained, “We estimate the average annual demand for medical oxygen to be around 100-110 tonnes per day (tpd) in Pakistan. We also estimate that Covid-19 has raised the consumption of medical oxygen, with figures varying from 300 to 500 tonnes per day in 2020.”

”We expect high demand for medical oxygen to continue throughout this year and next, with levels of 300-400 tonnes per day in 2021 and about 200-250 tonnes per day in 2022.”

“100 tpd of medical oxygen in a “peacetime” is a very low volume for 220 million population country. To compare, Vietnam having 62 million population had (by our estimations) about 250 tpd of medical oxygen available in hospitals before Covid-19. This is due to higher number of hospital beds.”

”Additional demand could vary from 300 and up to 500 tpd of medical oxygen. This quantity does not seem to be difficult to produce, release, or import. More likely, the problem is in the oxygen delivery system to the hospitals.”

Across the border: India restricts oxygen supply

Pakistan’s devastation news was closely followed by India announcing new restrictions to to manage the application of oxygen supply and prioritise use for medical purposes, as the country continues to grapple with Covid-19.

Several states across India are understood to be flagging oxygen shortages as Covid cases surge, with the government announcing that oxygen supply will now be restricted to just nine industries.

From later this week (Thursday 22nd), industrial oxygen supply will be restricted to those entities involved in refilling cylinders, the pharma sector, steel plants, oil refineries, wastewater treatment, food and water treatment, nuclear energy facilities and continuous production sites that must keep processes running.

Read more: India: Restrictions on oxygen supply as fight against Covid continues

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