Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah are directly monitoring oxygen supply across the country on a war footing, the centre told the Supreme Court in an affidavit on the Covid situation.
“The Central Government, with active and constant supervision and direct involvement of the Hon’ble Prime Minister and the Hon’ble Home Minister, is augmenting the oxygen supply on a war footing evolving and implementing innovative measures,” the Centre’s 201-page affidavit said.
“Resultantly, more and more medical oxygen is generated and is being made available every day, keeping in mind not just existing requirements but potential future requirements. It is submitted that these efforts include augmenting oxygen supply from all available sources within India and also importing oxygen from other countries using not only the diplomatic channels but also personal intervention of the political executive.”
The Supreme Court had asked the government for a response on various aspects of the Covid crisis such as the supply of oxygen, beds, essential drugs like Remdesivir and Faviprivir and vaccines. Noting that many High Courts were hearing petitions related to the shortage of critical supplies, the Supreme Court had last week taken up the case on its own. “At a time of a national calamity the Supreme Court cannot be silent spectator,” it said today.
The centre’s affidavit says a “robust interactive mechanism” – a virtual central control room – is in place with dedicated senior officials on the supply of oxygen on real-time basis.
The government also lists “a series of meetings to prepare an adequate response in the country to the second surge of COVID-19”, by PM Modi.
The document says on February 21, the Union Health Ministry wrote to states and Union Territories witnessing a spike in Covid cases to put “immediate requisite public health interventions”.
On February 27, the ministry advised all states to not lower their guard and enforce Covid-appropriate behaviour and deal firmly with violations. The states were advised to follow effective surveillance and tracking strategies in connection with potential super spreader events, the affidavit said.
Another warning went to states on February 28, says the Centre, when the Cabinet Secretary reviewed the COVID-19 situation in eight states showing a rise in cases.
The centre tells the Supreme Court that there has been a coordinated response since the pandemic broke out last year.
The Home Ministry, it says, set up 11 empowered groups on different aspects of Covid management and interacted continuously with states.
“Even when there was a decline of Covid cases since September, the centre cautioned states to maintain civil and plan for exigencies,” the document claims.
The affidavit says India’s vaccination programme is the fastest in the world with 13.5 crore doses given since January.