oxygen cylinders (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has ordered the doubling of production of medical oxygen to fulfill public and private hospitals' needs amid the pandemic’s second wave that Egypt is witnessing.
Madbouly's directives were issued during a virtual meeting that he had held on Saturday with representatives from medical oxygen producing companies, in the presence of Health Minister Hala Zayed and Trade and Industry Minister Niven Gamea.
According to the cabinet statement that was released following the meeting, Madbouly called for coordinating efforts to meet the hospitals' demands of oxygen, adding that "the government is following this file around the clock."
The oxygen cylinder challenge has unpacked itself worldwide since it has been prescribed for virus-related patients, who suffer from low levels of oxygen, in order to keep them alive.
The challenges have also surfaced domestically since patients reportedly died last week in two public hospitals due to the lack of oxygen, a matter that the health ministry later denied in an official statement, while the public prosecutor is still investigating the matter.
Also, there have been reports that oxygen cylinders are either sold at exorbitant prices or are not available at all on the market.
"The exceptional circumstance with regard to the coronavirus crisis, prompts us to double the production of medical oxygen so as to meet the needs," Madbouly told the oxygen companies' representatives.
He noted that the production in normal circumstances can fulfill the needs adequately, but it is to be consumed swiftly at the time being.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi directed that there is to be an increase in the daily stock of oxygen to be able to handle any emergency, the prime minister added.
During the meeting, the PM also asserted the country's interior ministry's willingness to provide oxygen trucks to any hospitals at any time and under any circumstances.
Health Minister Hala Zayed reviewed during the meeting the efforts exerted in coordination with the interior ministry to eliminate oxygen black markets, price gouging, and the non-commitment to supplying medical facilities with their demands.
"Black markets are unacceptable in these circumstances," Trade and Industry Minister Niven Gamea said, noting all producing companies are patriotic and will work to meet the demands.
Egypt entered a second wave of the pandemic in the last week of December after it recorded double the number of infections daily.
A total infection toll of 147,810 cases has been reported nationwide, including 8,085 fatalities and 117,529 recoveries.