Several Delhi hospitals treating Covid-19 patients faced a major medical oxygen crisis with their depleting stock for the second consecutive day, prompting the Centre to increase the city's quota to 480 metric tonnes against the AAP dispensation's demand of 700 MT.
Although Chief Minister Arvind Kerjiwal said the Delhi government is "very grateful" to the Centre for increasing the oxygen quota, officials in the city administration flagged that 100 MT supply will come from Odisha and West Bengal which will take almost 72 hours to reach the city.
"Our citizens and hospitals are running out of time. The 140 metric tonnes of oxygen, which Haryana has to supply, is yet to leave for the national capital," said an official who didn't wish to be named.
A record 28,395 coronavirus cases and 277 deaths marked the aggravation of the pandemic situation in Delhi on Tuesday as the positivity rate shot up to 32.82 per cent -- meaning every third sample came out positive -- amid a "serious oxygen crisis" unfolding in the city.
The Delhi high court meanwhile directed the Centre to forthwith provide oxygen by whatever means to the hospitals in the national capital which are treating serious Covid-19 patients and are facing scarcity of oxygen.
"Why is the Centre not waking up to the gravity of the situation? We are shocked and dismayed hospitals running out of oxygen but steel plants are running," the high court said.
It said even if the industries, including steel and petroleum, run on lower capacity till oxygen is imported, heavens are not going to fall.
According to Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain, 240 MT and 365 MT oxygen had been supplied to the national capital on April 19 and 20 respectively against the requirement of 700 MT per day.
On Tuesday, several hospitals had sent SOS messages to the Delhi government after they fell short of medical oxygen, even as in the early hours of Wednesday, oxygen tankers reached these health facilities, but by the evening, they again scrambled to save lives of coronavirus patients amid its shortage.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Sisodia accused the Haryana government of blocking medical oxygen supply to the national capital.
Earlier in the day, Sir Ganga Ram City Hospital, St Stephen's Hospital, Holy Family Hospital in Okhla, Max Hospitals and Manipal Hospital among others faced similar crises, with some of them alleging that the Haryana government was not allowing vendors to supply oxygen to them.
Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij Wednesday alleged that a tanker carrying medical oxygen for Covid patients in hospitals, which was going from Panipat to Faridabad, was "looted" by the Delhi government and said all oxygen tankers will now move with police escort.
At a press conference in the evening, Sisodia, who is also nodal minister for Covid-19 management, said the oxygen supply had been restored now.
The Haryana government vehemently refuted the allegations, underlining that no one in the administration had hampered anything.
Sisodia said the AAP government had been demanding that the Centre increase Delhi's quota of oxygen from 378 metric tonnes to 700 metric tonnes.
A Delhi government official said that the Centre has announced that it will supply 480 metric tonnes of oxygen to Delhi, which will come from states like Odisha, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
"What remains a matter of grave concern is that of the 480 metric tonnes, 100 metric tonne oxygen from Odisha (70 metric tonne) and West Bengal (30 metric tonne) will take almost 72 hours to reach Delhi.
"Our citizens, our hospitals, our city is running out of time. Meanwhile, the 140 metric tonnes, which Haryana has to supply is yet to leave for Delhi," the official said.
Since Delhi does not have its own source of oxygen, the capital's supply comes from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, he said, adding that despite health being a state subject, the power related to oxygen supply lies with the central government, which decides which state will get how much oxygen.
"Given the new, far more virulent wave of Covid-19, Delhi has seen a huge rise in demand for oxygen, and the chief minister had recently informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Centre of the sheer gravity of the situation," the official said.
Meanwhile, civic authorities in Delhi have started working on a real-time monitoring system and a central control room for crematoriums and burial grounds amid a rise in the number of Covid-19 fatalities.
The situation is "very bad", said Mashqoor Rashid, busy issuing papers to those reaching the Qabristan Ahle Islam near ITO, the biggest Muslim graveyard in Delhi, to bury their family members.
"On an average, we are performing the burials of 18-20 coronavirus victims every day for the last few days," Rashid, a member of the graveyard's management committee, said.
Farmers protesting at several Delhi borders Wednesday rejected as "false propaganda" allegations that they were not letting medical oxygen carriers into Delhi, thus putting lives of several Covid-19 patients at risk.
BJP MP Parvesh Verma had Tuesday night alleged that transportation of medical use oxygen into Delhi was hampered due to the road blockade caused by protesters.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a representative body of several protesting farmer unions, said on Wednesday they have kept a way open for emergency services since day one of their agitation.