A worker in Prayagraj filling oxygen cylinders, for use in a Covid-19 hospital facility. Photo: Sanjay Kanojia / AFP
The percentage of COVID-19 patients in the ‘second wave’ requiring supplemental oxygen support has increased compared to the ‘first wave’, while those requiring ventilator support has decreased, as per a presentation by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on April 19. The presentation stated that the supply of oxygen needed to be ramped up.
The ICMR compared data on hospitalised patients from September-November 2020 for the first wave, and March-April (so far) for the second wave. The presentation, shared with journalists, showed that the mean age of hospitalised patients has reduced only slightly in the second wave, to 48.9 years from 50.4 years.
The data showed that 54.5 per cent of all COVID-19 admissions in the second wave required supplemental oxygen and 27.8 required ventilator support, compared with 27.8 percent and 37.3 percent in the first wave.
The presentation was attended by senior government officials including Niti Aayog member VK Paul.
The maximum number of hospitalisations continued to be in the 40-plus age category, at 69.8 percent in the second wave compared with 72.2 in the first wave. “Older population continues to be more vulnerable. Only marginally higher proportion of patients in younger age group despite opening up of activities,” the presentation stated.
It said that of those admitted for the months in which data was collected, those in the 0-19 years category were 5.8 per cent of all COVID admissions versus 4.2 percent in the first wave, while in the 20-40 years age group, it was 25.5 percent compared with 23.7 percent.
The presentation stated that these trends were broadly similar in all states. “Oxygen supply for care needs to be ramped up. Ventilator requirement not higher in second wave,” it said.
The presentation added that a higher proportion of asymptomatic patients were getting admitted in the second wave. “Asymptomatic/mild illness can be managed at home and do not require hospitalisation. Moderately ill patients, if managed as per guideline, can be discharged earlier,” it said.
India's oxygen consumption has touched an all-time high of 4300 metric tonnes per day, even as the authorities gear up to import the life-saving gas. Pre-COVID it was 850 MT per day and the previous peak was 3,100 MT on September 18, 2020. The average stock level in hospitals of several states has declined to one day as compared to the three days before.
To meet the rising demand, the Centre has decided to import 50,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen in India. An empowered group of committee formed to monitor the supply of essential medical equipment during the pandemic has decided to focus on these 12 high-burden states and has decided to direct 17,000 metric tonnes of additional oxygen to these states.
The Union Home Secretary has already written to chief secretaries of states and administrators of Union Territories, that they should issue necessary instructions to all authorities concerned to take necessary measures to prohibit the supply of oxygen for industrial purpose, except in nine key industries.