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The supply of oxygen rose to 200-220 tonnes a day after Covid-19 cases spiked in the country in the beginning of April. In total, 100 tonnes were imported from India and the rest was produced locally. Import from India stopped on 21 April, but fortunately the demand for oxygen has dropped after the number of Covid-19 patients decreased. However, if Covid-19 patients increase, the demand for oxygen will rise and then problems may arise to meet the extra demand.

Officials at Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and the companies supplying oxygen to public and private hospitals have said that since the spread of Covid-19 has seen a downward trend over the past two weeks, the demand for oxygen is less for now. Beside, producing of industrial oxygen has been cut to increase the production of medical grade oxygen. As a result, the crisis has been avoided for the time being.

There was a demand for 100-120 tonnes of oxygen a day in the country’s health sector before the coronavirus pandemic and no necessity for import. The demand started increasing since the coronavirus outbreak. Importing oxygen from India began. Demands reached a peak at the beginning of April. It now has decreased to 140-150 tonnes a day. No oxygen shortage has arisen as yet.

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Director (hospital) of DGHS Farid Hossain Miah told Prothom Alo nowhere has oxygen fall short. Keeping the future situation in mind, a work plan will be finalised soon in consultation with the manufacturers of industrial oxygen, he added.

Sources said multinational company Linde and local company Spectra supply oxygen to all public hospitals in the country. These two companies also supply oxygen to private hospitals. Besides, Islam Oxygen is also a big supplier of oxygen to private hospitals. These three companies are operating round-the-clock for maximum output. Other than this, industrial oxygen manufacturers AK Oxygen, Union Oxygen and Abul Khair Steel Melting Mill have been given clearance for producing medical grade oxygen temporarily. They have been supplying oxygen on a limited scale, the sources added.

An official at Linde said their two factories have a production capacity of 90 tonnes. Since the demand increased, they brought oxygen from Linde’s factory in India. The company imported maximum 30-40 tonnes of oxygen a day. In total, they are supplying 110-120 tonnes of oxygen a day. They still have imported liquid oxygen at their stock. They have been supplying a little over 90 tonnes of oxygen daily, he added.

A senior official of Spectra said they also supplied more than 50 tonnes of oxygen a day when the demand reached its peak. Now they supply about 20 tonnes of oxygen as import stops. However, they have been preparing to produce oxygen at a new factory, he added.

Islam Oxygen has a capacity to produce 40 tonnes of oxygen a day, but they can produce 30 tonnes because of load shedding. The company has sought banks funds bank to expand its factory.

Regarding this, chief executive officer of Islam Oxygen Mustain Billah told Prothom Alo if they get gas connection, their factory can be run 24 hours by generating power at their own facility.

Officials at the country’s three big oxygen supplying companies said increasing production is necessary. The three companies are working under huge pressure. If any factory stops, supply of oxygen may fall short.

Regarding this, former director (disease control) at the Directorate General of Health Services, Be-Nazir Ahmed told Prothom Alo that oxygen might not be found suddenly when needed. The possible situation of Covid should be projected from now as well as an assessment of the country's oxygen production. Then a plan of action should be drawn up. If the country’s oxygen production can’t be increased, an alternative source to India must be identified, he added.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna

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