A special 12-member National Task Force has been set up by the Supreme Court to regulate the availability and distribution of medical oxygen – on scientific, rational and impartial basis – across India. The task force will also be active to ensure availability of the medical supplies to treat COVID-19.
The court passed the final order by saying, “The rationale for constituting a Task Force at a national level is to facilitate public health response to the pandemic based on scientific and specialised domain knowledge. We expect leading experts in the country shall associate with the Task Force, as members and resource persons; this will facilitate a meeting of minds and the formulation of scientific strategies to deal with an unprecedented human crisis.”
Oxygen has become a scarce yet crucial medical resource because every day more patients are suffering from breathlessness in this wave of COVID-19. India is battling a tremendous second wave of coronavirus cases. Over four lakh new cases were reported in the past 24 hours while the number of active cases in India is now over 37 lakh.
Arrangement of the task force had been ordered by the top court on Friday, when it called for a rebuilt of the centre’s allocation of oxygen to different states. At the time the centre had agreed and wanted an audit to be performed, but the Delhi government had opposed it.
To this the court raised a question that, “We need to do look at the issue pan-India…an oxygen audit is necessary. What is the accountability once stocks are released?” The court had also demanded to know if the centre was prepping for a possible third COVID-19 wave, which could further worsen the acute shortfall in oxygen, medicines and hospital beds
Some of the task force members include; Dr Bhabatosh Biswas, former Vice Chancellor of the West Bengal University of Health Sciences Dr. Gagandeep Kang, Professor, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu; Dr J.V. Peter, Director, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, etc.
The Centre has observed that the oxygen crisis is a problem of transportation rather than supply. Last week it said there was sufficient medical oxygen and the main challenge was moving it to high-demand areas. In its order on Saturday the Supreme Court noted the Centre’s assurance that sufficient quantity of oxygen and steps for augmentation of supply were being taken care of at the highest level.