Oxygen Shortage, the Newest Crisis in Pakistan?
Pakistan has seen 5,058 deaths -- more than Bangladesh or India per million cases.
With the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in Asia overwhelming its health system, Pakistan is facing a new crisis: a shortage of oxygen cylinders.
One of the nation’s largest providers of medical oxygen has increased its supply four times over to 10,000 cylinders since coronavirus cases began to rise in April. Now almost its entire amount is in use, Alamgir Welfare Trust spokesman Shakeel Dehlvi said.
The Indus Hospital, part of a significant chain of private hospitals treating virus patients in Pakistan, decided against providing oxygen to patients under medical care in their own homes after finding a shortage of cylinders, according to its chief executive officer Abdul Bari Khan.
“The amount of oxygen being utilized in this problem is unprecedented — there is a shortfall even without anticipating the demand,” Saad Khalid Niaz, a gastroenterologist at the private Patel Hospital in Karachi and a member of several medical associations in Pakistan, said over the phone. “I am praying and hoping that we are wrong, and Imran Khan is right, but so far, he has not been.”
Faisal Sultan, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on COVID-19, blamed hoarding for the shortfall of medical oxygen and added the pressure on the hospitals was easing as the number of new infections appeared to be flattening out.
“If there is an intermediary supply-side shortage, that is possible,” said Sultan, who is an infectious disease expert. “When there is a run, there is hoarding and artificial shortage because of individual behaviors.”
The government expects cases to rise by five times to peak at 1.2 million cases by the end of July or early August from about 243,600 cases as of Friday evening, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Pakistan has seen 5,058 deaths — more than Bangladesh or India per million cases. South Asia is one of the latest hot spots for the virus globally.
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