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Military importing oxygen generation plants from Germany

The Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) is importing mobile oxygen generation plants to address the oxygen crisis precipitated by the second wave of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), people familiar with the development said on Friday.

The AFMS is importing 23 mobile oxygen generation plants from Germany, and these will arrive within a week, said one of the officials cited above. “These plants will be deployed in AFMS hospitals catering to Covid patients,” he said. Each plant can produce 2,400 litres of oxygen per hour. “At this rate, it can cater to 20-25 patients round the clock. The advantage of these plants is that they are easily portable,” the official said.

The military and other wings of the defence ministry have been ordered to respond on war footing to fight the outbreak that has so far claimed nearly 185,000 lives, as reported by Hindustan Times.

From setting up Covid hospitals to ramping up oxygen production and airlifting of medical staff and oxygen containers to liaising with state governments to help them deal with the rising number of daily cases, the armed forces, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) are working overtime for Covid-19 relief.

The DRDO is among the organisations that are at the forefront of fighting the second deadly wave of Covid-19 that has ripped through the country. A new Covid hospital set up by the DRDO in Ahmedabad will be functional from Saturday. The hospital has been readied in less than 10 days.

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The Dhanvantri Covid Hospital has a capacity of 900 beds, including 150 intensive care unit (ICU) beds, said a second official. The remaining 750 beds also have provision for oxygen, he added. The DRDO has set up the facility in collaboration with Gujarat government.

It has so far set up or is in the process of setting up state-of-the-art Covid hospitals in six cities to treat more than 3,100 critical patients.

The DRDO has set up a 500-bed hospital in Delhi and converted an ESIC hospital into a 500-bed Covid facility in Patna. In addition, hospitals with 450 beds in Lucknow and 750 beds in Varanasi are expected to be functional soon. A sixth Covid hospital is being readied in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur.

The Indian Air Force on Thursday airlifted three empty oxygen containers from Hindon to Panagarh in West Bengal where these will be filled up and supplied to different centres for Covid relief. The IAF used its C-17 and Il-76 heavy-lift aircraft to move the containers. Also, it moved empty oxygen containers from Begumpet to Bhubaneswar on Friday. Once filled, the containers will be carried to Covid centres by rail or road.

The IAF has deployed its aircraft for airlifting medical personnel, oxygen containers, oxygen cylinders, trolleys and essential medicines to places where they are needed, as reported by HT.

The DRDO has also stepped in to address the oxygen crisis precipitated by the second wave of the disease. It has transferred oxygen generation technology to the industry, which has now started providing oxygen plants to state governments and hospitals. The Uttar Pradesh government, for instance, has ordered five such plants from Coimbatore-based Trident Pneumatics.

The technology transferred to the industry is based on the onboard oxygen generation technology developed for Tejas light combat aircraft. The oxygen generation plants can produce 1,000 litres of oxygen per minute. The DPSUs are also making arrangements to buy oxygen plants for the production and supply of oxygen cylinders at a swift pace.

Technology developed by the DRDO for a supplemental oxygen delivery system for soldiers posted in high-altitude areas has also been transferred to the industry, and it will soon be available in the market for use by Covid patients.

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The armed forces and other wings of the defence ministry can play an important role in the fight against Covid-19, said Lieutenant General BK Chopra (retd), a former directed general of AFMS said on Thursday.

“They have the manpower, resources and discipline to provide relief in these hard times. The military especially has a culture of quick response, be it enemy action or natural catastrophes. It can do a lot to alleviate the sufferings of our countrymen during the pandemic too,” Chopra said.

On April 20, defence minister Rajnath Singh carried out an extensive review of the preparedness of the armed forces and other allied organisations to deal with the surge in Covid infections across the country.