A few weeks after the third wave of COVID-19 infections was confirmed in South Africa, the number of daily infections has again begun to steadily rise. During earlier waves last year many public and private hospitals experienced severe shortages in their oxygen supplies.
Now, amongst increasing concerns that oxygen will again begin to run dry, oxygen suppliers have confirmed that they have learnt their lessons during the second wave and have helped increase capacity to meet the demand in the coming weeks or months as the third wave crests upon the country.
The Third Wave is Here
According to Business Insider, SA’s cases are again in rapid incline. In the last week of May, the country recorded an average of 3745 new daily infections, an increase of 33% from the week prior and 66% from the week-long period before that.
These new figures, confirming that the third wave has indeed arrived, were answered by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of more restrictive lockdown measures on Sunday, with SA moving to adjusted Lockdown Level 2.
With concerns mounting about the country’s healthcare system and oxygen supply readiness, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has listed South Africa, along with COVID-embattled India, Colombia and Thailand, amongst 16 others, as countries expected to face another oxygen crisis.
“Lessons Have Been Learnt” – Suppliers
However, the country’s major oxygen suppliers say that this time around they are better prepared to face the demand, citing valuable lessons learnt during the previous wave.
Chifipa Mhango, the chief economist of the Steel and Engineering Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA) claims that, as of yet, “[The Federation] has not been alerted on any oxygen shortages at industry level.”
During the second wave, SEIFSA found through a survey of 1600 member companies 77% of respondents experienced oxygen shortages. Mhango says that the Federation is now “…of the view that lessons were learnt by suppliers on what transpired during the second wave to mitigate any future situations.”
This sentiment has been echoed by two of the country’s main oxygen suppliers to both public and private healthcare institutions, Air Liquide SA and Afrox Healthcare respectively.
“Oxygen is produced and supplied from our five plants in South Africa with sufficient storage capacity which gives us full confidence in our ability to face a significant increase in demand,” an Air Liquide representative is quoted by Business Insider.
“Afrox is working closely with the department of health to ensure contingency plans are in place to meet the threat of a third wave of COVID-19,” says Nolundi Rawana, Afrox’s communications manager.
“Reserves at storage facilities across South Africa have been replenished to support Afrox’s installed production capacity of more than 630 tons of oxygen per day. Afrox also has the flexibility of bulk delivery tankers to transport oxygen to hospitals at increased levels.”