As hospitals packed with Covid patients, SL to purchase oxygen from India

By Susitha Fernando

Colombo, Aug 15 (IANS): By As Sri Lankan hospitals are getting overcrowded with Covid-19 patients and existing oxygen stocks are running out, the island nation's Health Ministry has decided to purchase 100 metric tonnes of oxygen every week from India.

The Ministry said as oxygen is in high demand in many hospitals around the island, the decision was made to purchase oxygen from India immediately.

An official from the Ministry stated that the daily demand for oxygen has increased to 72 metric tonnes and admission of Covid patients needing oxygen has been increased immensely.

In addition to India, oxygen is to be imported from Singapore as well.

At present Covid patients needing oxygen has increased to over 600 and with the massive influx of new cases, the country's demand has increased.

On Wednesday, the National Independent Expert Group under the World Health Organization (WHO) ruled that patients dependent on oxygen have significantly increased from 528 to 646 patients.

The expert team Chaired by Alaka Singh, the WHO Representative to Sri Lanka, ruled that if the trend continues, there would inevitability of a serious shortage of oxygen supply and interruption of care.

The Expert Group comprising 14 leading medical specialists facilitated by Palitha Abeykoon, WHO Consultant and WHO Director-General's Special Envoy for Covid-19 Preparedness and Response for SEAR, concluded that the bed occupancy rates at all levels of care facilities (over 85 per cent) and ICU's (over 90 per cent) have increased progressively and was now in full capacity.

The experts have noted that the current surge in Covid-19, nearly overwhelming the capacity of country's health systems to provide the required adequate care for the people.

They warned that the trends indicated that Sri Lanka could soon face a health crisis of unprecedented proportions.

The findings of the Expert Group also revealed that many parts of the country showed a high PCR test positivity rate of over 20 per cent as by end of July more than 60 per cent of sequenced samples were Delta variant which was highly transmissible with shorter incubation period.

"The crisis will be magnified once Delta variant has spread countrywide because most of the other provinces are not as well vaccinated as the Western province," the experts warned.

"Significant number of health workers are getting infected with a consequent pressure for curtailment and closure of services. All indications are that the staff are exhausted and struggling," they noted.

The experts cautioned that the number of cases would increase up to mid-September at 6,000 cases per day, deaths up to early October coming to a peak at around 220 deaths per day.

ICU admission will peak at around 275 by early October with cumulative deaths around 30,000 by Jan 2022.






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