As India struggles to cope with an influx of Covid-19 patients, French gas giant Air Liquide SA is diverting oxygen supplies for industrial clients to hospitals.
According to Air Liquide Executive Vice-President Francois Jackow, the oxygen giant is sending the majority of its liquid oxygen supply to the health-care sector and is looking to import additional supplies from the Middle East, reports Bloomberg.
According to him, demand for medical oxygen in India has increased by approximately tenfold, or accounting for more than half of the country's total production capacity.
When presenting Air Liquide's first-quarter performance, Jackow said, "The situation in India is becoming more and more dramatic," adding, "The crisis is picking up."
On Friday, India set a new global record for new infections, with reports of bodies piling up at crematoriums and burial grounds raising fears that the death toll could be much higher than official figures.
Hospitals have confirmed bed shortages, medical oxygen shortages, and critical drug shortages, with one of New Delhi's most prestigious institutions reporting that it had less than two hours of medical oxygen remaining.
Air Liquide and U.K. rival Linde Plc, two of the biggest providers of gases to industry, have been expanding into the health-care sector for years. They've benefited from a pandemic-induced surge in demand for oxygen, which can mean the difference between life and death for patients with lung failure.
Paris-based Air Liquide earlier Friday reported a 10% increase in revenue at its heath-care division on rising oxygen demand from clients around the world. That's about double the normal growth rate, Jackow said.
Demand for medical gases soared some 15% in Europe, mostly in the region's southern countries, Jackow said. He cited a close to 80% rise in Brazil and strong growth in parts of Africa.
"Overall there is still a strong Covid impact," he said. "We aren't at the peak in some countries, especially in developing areas like Latin America, Africa and India."