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MANZINI – In three to five week’s time, the country could have its own oxygen plant.

As critical COVID -19 patients battle to survive while others flood emergency wards after contracting the virus, only to find that hospitals are without  oxygen, government has seemingly started to think outside the box. Following the shortage of oxygen that had been reported by the Ministry of Health, the Director of Health Services, Dr Vusi Magagula, said government was already engaging entrepreneurs on a possible solution. In their engagement, he said, one entrepreneur committed to assist government to set up an oxygen plant in the country. But for this to happen, Dr Magagula said, the service provider had requested three weeks to have the plant up and running. “What we have gathered is that the shortage has been brought about by the limitation of cylinders as they are from South Africa. The demand for oxygen is unprecedented and we need to act fast on the demand,” Dr Magagula said.


He said there was plenty of oxygen in the atmosphere and it needed to be collected and compressed into the cylinders before being distributed to hospitals. This was also affirmed by the Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, Dr Simon Zwane. He said given the envisaged scramble for oxygen in the region as the COVID-19 cases surged, government had seen it fit to have alternatives for sourcing oxygen. Among them, he said, was what was known as on-site oxygen generation.

According to Generon, an oxygen production company, on-site oxygen generators are a cost-effective alternative to purchasing cylinder oxygen from industrial gas suppliers. By producing your own oxygen gas, at your facility, you can save up to 80 per cent of traditional gas contract costs. Dr Zwane said government was seeking to explore this method as the duration of setting up the plant took between three to five weeks. This duration, he said, was dependent on the size of the facilities. He said: “We are already engaging with a number of companies and once everything has been finalised, we shall follow government procurement standards.” Besides this long-term solution to the oxygen shortage challenge, Dr Zwane said government was also seeking to have oxygen bulk storage cylinders in medical health facilities.

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