Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government has warned of stern action against the illegal hoarding of life-saving medical oxygen and its cylinders in the wake of the COVID-19 surge.
As the state is reeling under the second wave of the pandemic, time is critical in the supply of medical oxygen and any unethical practice in this regard would invite punishment under the Disaster Management Act and the Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020, authorities said.
Stating that stress has been laid on the rational use of oxygen, they said artificial scarcity of cylinders should not happen owing to unethical practices or issues in management and proper reporting of stock in the supply chain is critical.
"Black-marketing or unaccounted sale, profiteering by hiking the price at times of perceived scarcity and other unethical practices while dealing with life saving medical oxygen or cylinder is strictly prohibited," according to a recent order, issued by Chief Secretary V P Joy.
Cylinders, meant for medical oxygen (full or empty), shall not be hoarded anywhere by any person so as to ensure the cycle of filling - use refilling and quick turn-around to support the needy patients, it said.
As the Chairman of the state Executive Committee of the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, the Chief Secretary issued the order with an aim to prevent mortality due to the lack of medical Oxygen supply during the surge, it pointed out.
The government directed persons or entities, holding industrial cylinders, to hand them over to the District Collector, Chairman DDMA or the person authorised by the Chairman, at the earliest.
The DDMAs may take steps to requisition and collect/ seize industrial cylinders (of industrial Oxygen, Nitrogen, Helium and Argon), convert it as per SOP and use it for medical use, the order said.
All persons and entities in the supply chain and end users shall properly report the stock of oxygen to the government for the effective management of supply of the life saving gas, it said.
An executive magistrate shall be posted by the District Collectors in all major medical oxygen storage facilities and filling stations to monitor the supply and distribution of the gas from these facilities.
A green corridor shall be provided for the smooth and quick transportation of oxygen tankers and vehicles carrying oxygen cylinders, it said.
As the COVID -19 is a "notified disaster", violation of the government directive and hoarding of medical Oxygen cylinders (full or empty), black marketing and profiteering through illegal ways, non-disclosure of stock of Oxygen and so on shall be offences under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The DDMAs, Police, Department of Industries, Health and PESO may initiate steps against the violation of these orders under relevant provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020 and other relevant provisions in law, the order further said.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday requested the Centre to provide at least 1,000 tonnes of imported Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) to the state in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases.
Since the overall projected requirement of liquid medical oxygen in the state is rising, the buffer storage within the state needs to be augmented urgently keeping in view the depletion of storage due to heavy daily demand, he said.