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Despite ruling out community transmission, Centre order 40,000 ventilators to fight coronavirus


NEW DELHI: While the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare maintains that there is no community transmission yet, the possibility of COVID-19 spreading has prompted Centre to order 40,000 ventilators, which will be critical to saving lives when the situation worsens.

Earlier, the Centre had prohibited the export of ventilators and sanitizers.

Going by the outbreak in other countries, the World Health Organisation said nearly 5-10 % of the total infected patients will require critical care in the form of ventilator support. According to estimates, there are no more than 40,000 ventilators across hospitals in the country. 

Even the national capital is woefully short of life-saving machines. There are only 440 ventilators as against an estimated 1,00,509 beds in government hospitals.

Of these, 52 are non-functional functional, the Delhi government told the Delhi High Court last November.

The Delhi government said 15 hospitals had initiated the process of procuring 63 ventilators, which would be installed “within six months.”


Clearly, the availability of ventilators is grossly inadequate should an epidemic break out, though Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Friday that his government was fully prepared to meet an escalation in patient numbers.

On Monday, Kejriwal had said there are 2,400 additional beds in the ICUs of 56 private hospitals in Delhi with 888 ventilators. As much as 10% of these ventilator-beds are, however, earmarked for the neonatal ICU. 

“There have been outbreaks earlier as well but Delhi has never felt a shortage of diagnostic and critical care support equipment. But if there is a spike in virus cases, irrespective of how good the healthcare system is, it could become unmanageable. Besides, ventilators are not a dependable source to recovery,” said Dr. MC Mishra, a former Dean at AIIMS.

A member of the Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA) said: “Thankfully the situation is under control currently, but it will be difficult to manage if there is an exponential rise in the number of patients. The success of the lockdown is critical to the effort to contain its spread,” he said.

Ashok Aggarwal, an advocate who submitted a complaint against Delhi hospitals, said, “the state government was also supposed to come up with a report on the status of the hospitals but it could not.”