World running out of oxygen supplies


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AS THE number of Covid-19 cases race towards the 10 million mark next week the World Health Organisation has warned the demand for oxygen is outstripping supplies.

The WHO also advised countries across the globe to practise optimal use of available tools to suppress transmission and save lives as research into vaccines and therapeutics continues.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this yesterday in his opening remarks during a media briefing following a trilateral meeting between WHO, France and Germany.

“One of the most effective ways of saving lives is providing oxygen to patients who need it.

“This has been an area of intense focus for WHO since the beginning of the pandemic.

He added that patients with severe and critical Covid-19 cannot get enough oxygen into their blood by breathing normally.

“They need higher concentrations of oxygen and support to get it into their lungs. Left untreated, severe Covid-19 deprives cells and organs of the oxygen they need, which ultimately leads to organ failure and death.”

Medical oxygen is produced using oxygen concentrators, which extract and purify oxygen from the air.

WHO estimates that at the current rate of about 1 million new cases a week, the world needs about 620 000 cubic metres of oxygen a day, which is about 88 000 large cylinders.

However, many countries were now experiencing difficulties in obtaining oxygen concentrators as demand was outstripping supply.

WHO said its UN partners were working with manufacturers across the world through a variety of private sector networks to buy oxygen concentrators for countries that need them most.

“Ongoing talks with suppliers in recent weeks have enabled WHO to buy 14 000 oxygen concentrators, which will be sent to 120 countries in the coming weeks.

WHO has identified a further 170 000 concentrators that can be available over the next six months, with a value of US$100 million dollars.

In addition, WHO has bought 9 800 pulse oximeters, a simple device used to monitor oxygen in a patient’s blood, which are being prepared for shipment.


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