No chance of oxygen crisis unless any dramatic change: Minister


UNB, Dhaka

As Bangladesh grapples with the second wave of coronavirus infections with hospitals overstretched, one major concern that has arisen is the availability of medical grade oxygen for critical Covid-19 patients.

Amid the growing worries over a steady supply of the lifesaving element, Health Minister Zahid Maleque has assured the people of the country that there will not be any shortage of oxygen unless the situation worsens dramatically.

His clarification came at a time when India, struggling with an acute oxygen crisis, stopped its export to Bangladesh.

"We don’t import oxygen from India all year long. We needed to import oxygen from India during a huge upsurge in Covid cases. But if the situation remains stable, there’ll be no shortage of oxygen in the country," he told UNB.

Maleque said Bangladesh is not that much dependent on liquid oxygen. “In fact, we rely more on gas oxygen. So, even if we face a shortage of liquid oxygen, it won't be a big deal," he added.

Medical grade oxygen is needed for treating critical Covid-19 patients who develop hypoxaemia – the shortage of oxygen in the blood – which is one of the main causes of death.

The minister said the demand for medical-grade oxygen is currently around 100-150 tonnes.

The government produces 250 tonnes of gaseous and 150-200 tonnes of liquid oxygen every day. The private sector also produces around 40-50 tonnes of oxygen a day. "So, unless there’s any dramatic upsurge in Covid-19 cases which forces the demand to double overnight, we’ll be fine," he assured.

He said the government has asked hospitals to increase the use of gaseous oxygen in order to avoid misuse of liquid oxygen. 

Minister Maleque said the health authorities are in constant touch with industries so that liquid oxygen can be collected on short notice when needed.