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Truck Drivers Who Gave Up Sleep, Food, And Shelter To Provide Oxygen To COVID-19 Hospitals

At a staggering 8 million, India officially has the second-highest number of patients affected with the coronavirus. While the United States is in the lead on this deadly list, India is not far behind. With most of the country’s hospitals turning into COVID centers, medical and other supplies to these hospitals have been a priority since day one. One of the many supplies required by the hospitals is oxygen. While delivering the same by a truck doesn’t seem that humungous of a task ordinarily, the task was extremely challenging in the initial stages of the pandemic’s arrival in India in early March. In March the federal government had imposed a nationwide lockdown, causing almost everything along the roads to close down. Therefore truck drivers were left with no place to get food, water, or any other necessity.

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The precious oxygen they were delivering was keeping numerous patients alive at numerous hospitals. There were truck drivers delivering oxygen supplies from the foothills of Himalayas to hospitals in the northern plain. Even when roadside repair shops, lodges, and motels were shut down during the nationwide lockdown, many of the truck drivers made the journey up and down as it was their duty to deliver oxygen to patients in as many hospitals as they could. The nation was facing many issues for the first time, including certain outlets focusing only on delivering supplies of oxygen to local hospitals, leaving many others depleted of the resource necessary to help give their patients the best of treatments available. 

Linde India Ltd which is an affiliate of the world’s largest supplier of liquid gases, Linde Plc. As the number of people affected by the virus was increasing day after day, truck drivers found themselves working as hard as they could to meet the ever-growing demand for oxygen placed by numerous hospitals scrambling to provide the best of services to their patients. 

According to the government, demand for medical oxygen in the time of the COVID-19 has increased to 2,800 tonnes a day and that around half of the liquid oxygen produced in the country is now being used to meet medical needs. That’s an increase to 50% from just 15% during the pre-pandemic times. In response to the ever-increasing demand for medical oxygen, the company has pooled all of its vehicles to deliver the same including grounded vehicles. Linde India proudly exclaimed how owing to its efforts to ensure that medical oxygen reaches all its partner hospitals, none of them have experienced being out-of-stock. They also commented on the possibility of shipping in the commodity from its facilities and outlets that operate outside the country. 

The government mentioned how supplies have stabilized since a scarcity experienced in mid-September and that it has floated a global tender to import 100,000 tonnes of oxygen to meet the demand for medical oxygen. 

While India has the second-largest number of people infected with the virus, our deaths-per-million people ratio is one of the lowest when compared to some of the worst-hit countries. What has played a pivotal role in maintaining such a low death-per-million people rate is the delivery of medical oxygen just in time for treatment. Therefore, these truck drivers, who battle all sorts of uncertainties to ensure patients get the oxygen they need are indeed playing a major role in helping them recover. On a daily basis, the Linde India factory called Selaqui at the foothills of the Himalayas used to produce 154 tonnes of oxygen. This number has now increased to 161 tonnes. Of the oxygen produced, about 85-90% went to medical patients, stated Surendra Singh, one of Linde India’s business heads. One of the good things that came to be as a result of the nationwide lockdown was the fact that industrial demand for oxygen reduced as much as medical demand for the same increased. 

The factory depends on a total of 33 container trucks and a group of 66 truck drivers. The farthest a truck has to travel to deliver supplies is 680 kilometers which is a two-day drive away. The trucks have on-board cameras, GPS trackers, and everything that they possibly might need in order to ensure that the deliveries are on time and never late. As most businesses on the roadside were shut down, the factory’s canteen started providing the drivers with biscuits and dry fruit in an attempt to do whatever they could to help the situation. 

Even with protective gear, drivers are always at risk of contracting the virus as they spend an excessive amount of time inside hospital compounds transferring oxygen to storage tanks. However, as the incidence of the virus has been on the low, the drivers are more at ease. Nevertheless, doctors have warned that coronavirus infections may increase during winter. This would mean that there would be an increase in demand for medical oxygen supplies once again. Therefore, truck drivers are bracing themselves for it. However, they do so with no hesitation as they are doing their part in helping the country battle the virus alongside other frontline workers like doctors and nurses.

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