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With the Covid-19 health crisis deteriorating steadily in Kerala, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday rushed another letter to Prime Minister Modi seeking additional 300 tonnes of medical oxygen on an urgent basis. This is the third letter the CM has written to the Prime Minister in 10 days.
“We have capacity to generate 212 tonnes daily but experts have said the oxygen demand will rise to 426 tonnes in view of rising Covid-19 cases. Besides this, a low pressure is also forming fast in the Arabian Sea and it is likely to take cyclonic proportions. So we have to get prepared,” he said in the letter. A red alert was sounded in five districts in view of the cyclonic storm.
Kerala has reported another high on Thursday clocking 39,955 cases with a test positivity rate (TPR) of 28.61 per cent. Two districts have reported TPR above 30 per cent– Ernakulam 32 and Malappuram 38. And in some places in these districts, the TPR is above 50 per cent, health ministry data shows.
With the active caseload rising, the government has given directions to all district administrations to build makeshift hospitals to meet the influx of patients. They have been asked to take the help of state and central public sector units in their districts. So, many schools, colleges, hostels and stadiums have been turned into temporary hospitals to meet the surge.
In one of the worst–affected districts in Ernakulam the country’s largest temporary Covid-19 hospital is coming up in Ambalavayal in Kochi with 1500 beds with direct oxygen supply from the nearby Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) plant. Ernakulam district collector S Suhas said the first phase of the hospital with 500 beds has opened to patients and it will be fully functional by next week.
“We deliberately chose the place for the makeshift hospital because of the proximity to the BPCL plant. We will have direct oxygen supply from the plant and it will save enough time in transportation and logistics,” said the young collector. In several parts of the country the delay in supply of oxygen cylinders and technical glitches resulted in many deaths,” he said.
“We are fighting hard to contain the surge. But this new hospital, the largest with 1500 oxygen beds, will be a game changer. We can contain the fatality rate considerably in the district,” he said. The BPCL has the capacity to deliver 2 tonnes of medical oxygen daily and it can be raised after gauging the need. The district administration has also appointed 400 nurses and other medical workers for the new hospital.
One of the worst-hit districts in the second wave— in Ernakulam eight local self-governing bodies like Chellanam and Thrikkakara have a test positivity rate (TPR) of 50 per cent and in urban areas it is around 30 per cent. “The high TPR is a concern but we are doing our best to bring down numbers. Cases are increasing due to the presence of strong mutants and we are trying to perk up the recovery rate to control the influx,” a senior health official said adding that only serious patients who need oxygen will be admitted to the new hospital in Ambalavayal. A commercial hub Kochi has a sizeable population of workers from other states especially the north east.
A close look at the health ministry data shows that in the last two weeks there has been a steady rise in cases and fatality rate. On Thursday when 1,39, 656 people were tested 39,955 tested positive. The state also reported 97 deaths taking the total fatality rate to 6,150. The active caseload also rose to 4,38,913. Among the 14 districts, in 10 districts the TPR is above 20 per cent. The state is currently under a lockdown till May 16 and it is likely to be extended.