In a rather unconventional move, the state of Maharashtra has tagged 'oxygen availability' and test positivity rate, as the unlock criteria across its various districts. As per reports, the state's 5-level unlock programme will now be regulated on the basis of oxygen bed occupancy status as LMO has been designated as "the most critical resource" for the treatment of COVID-19. Meanwhile, the state government has awarded certain relaxations across Mumbai and other districts on Monday, after a two-month hiatus.
Bolstered oxygen availability to grant eased COVID guidelines
The epicentre of India's second COVID wave, Maharashtra has decided to stress the 'State Level Oxygen Trigger' as the base for its 'unlock-down' policy. The state government has announced that all districts will now be segregated into Level 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on the quantification of oxygen beds and the COVID positivity rate. The government is undertaking measures to arrest the COVID spread "much before the number of patients requiring oxygen-based treatment overwhelms the state's oxygen production capacity," informed the Chief Secretary of the state.
At present, Mahrashtra's LMO production capacity is pegged 1,200 tonnes/day. This supply can support the oxygen needs of 60,000 patients daily, given the average consumption of 20 tonnes of oxygen by 1000 patients daily. The Chief Secretary further pointed the serious challenges in importing oxygen from other states as well as internally transporting it to remote areas in the state.
District-wise classification to regulate COVID norms
This in turn has necessitated the need for the 'State Level Oxygen Trigger' to divide the districts into the listed levels. For instance, if the total patients on oxygen beds exceed over 45,000-50,000, then no other local parameter like COVID positivity rate will apply and the district shall be above Level 4. The classification here will be independent of any trends of oxygen bed occupancy, read reports. Similarly, if 35,000-45,000 oxygen beds are occupied in a district but there there is a reducing trend, then it shall be above Level 3.
The Chief Secretary pointed out that a state-level audit of the Public Health Department will announce the oxygen bed occupancy and district-level COVID positivity each Thursday. Post this, State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) will be tasked to implement necessary steps to further ease/tighten curbs, which would become in effect from the following Monday.
Meanwhile, the CM on Sunday also empowered the local District Collectors to ease/tighten COVID curbs based on the local situation. Parallelly, these authorities will be held directly responsible in case of protocol violations such as overcrowding or implementations of the norms.
Presently, the SDMO and other district municipal authorities are keeping tabs on public behaviour, adherence to rules, COVID patients in both rural and urban areas, among other factors, to strategically monitor the 5-level unlocking process initiated today.
Experts label the strategy as "a most innovative initiative"
COVID-19 expert Dr. Pradeep V. Mahajan, who is also the Chairman of StemRx Biosciences Solutions Pvt. Ltd., has termed this strategy as "a most innovative initiative". He said this plan of actions will impactfully "strengthen the system beforehand to ensure it can handle any surge of cases if something goes wrong in the Unlockdown."
"Now, the government will know how many new cases may come up and what's the advance preparation to handle them by way of hospital beds, oxygen availability, the medical staff, etc., and it needs to be emulated elsewhere in the country," Mahajan reportedly stated.