There is a desperate dash for oxygen tanks as Trinidad and Tobago’s Covid death and infection rates continue to climb.
People are shelling out thousands of dollars to purchase oxygen tanks from private companies.
Covid-19 affects the respiratory system, mainly the lungs, causing breathing distress in some people.
At present, several businesses the Express contacted are sold out of tanks but are expecting more in the coming days.
A representative from one company told the Express that people are so desperate for oxygen tanks they are calling and offering above the asking price for a tank.
Dr A Ali and Associates Medical Ltd is selling tanks priced from $3,500 for a medium portable cylinder with all attachments and a big tank at $5,000 with all attachments.
The representative said all were sold out but more are expected soon.
“People have been calling by the hundreds, they want any tank they can get, the big one, the small one, some say they will pay more, they don’t mind,” said the representative.
“It is very sad sometimes you just feel to cry, it not easy, we didn’t expect Trinidad to be like this for life to turn out this way,” she added.
The representative said there’s a waiting list but priority will be given to persons who have medical problems.
She said further that the rush for air is a wake-up call.
“People harden and not doing the right thing. This is a wake-up call, especially for the younger ones who going out partying and then taking the virus home to their elderly relatives who are home and innocent,” she said.
At Trius Medical, director Mitral Ramkhelawan told the Express that there was high demand for cylinders at their three locations at San Fernando, Valpark and Grand Bazaar.
There is currently a waiting list for those who wish to purchase a tank.
He said they are also giving priority to people who have a prescription.
Ramkhelawan noted there is fear and panic among the population with the increasing numbers.
He said the names and faces of those who have died are also sending the message that this is all real and not rumour.
Ramkhelawan however said the company is facing challenges obtaining US currency to import tanks.
He said the Exim bank has reached out and offered assistance however he expressed disappointment over the banks’ inability to provide.
He said it is a bank issue and not a Government one as despite going with a letter from the public health authority asking for assistance to obtain US to buy tanks there are still challenges.
“For Christmas there was Johnny Walker Black and fine wine that people were getting the US to buy but not for medical equipment and supplies. We are not getting the foreign exchange. The banks have a preference system I seem not to understand,” he said.
At Massy Gas a representative said they do not have oxygen cylinders for sale at present but they do have oxygen to refill the tanks.
The representative said they, too, have been inundated with calls for tanks.
“It is very disheartening, there is a lot of anxiety from the population. People need to listen and avoid close contact,” said the representative.
He said refill of a portable tank is $45.29 and to refill a 220 cylinder it’s $123.
The representative said tanks were told at $2,000 with all accessories for the small ones and $3,600 for the 220 cylinder which also have all accessories including regulator, mask, gauge etc.
He noted that Massy Gas had indicated in a release last week that Massy Gas Products, the main provider of oxygen to Trinidad and Tobago, stated it will not sell oxygen tanks to people for personal use.
He said the company has a significant capacity of oxygen to supply the hospitals.
In a release Massy Gas Products said the company would refill oxygen tanks for private use but it will not sell new tanks.
“It has noted a significant increase in demand from private individuals who are seeking to purchase medical oxygen cylinders for personal use in the case of an emergency. At this time, the organisation says it is unable to meet those demands from private individuals, but it remains committed to certifying and filling cylinders that are privately owned,” the release had stated.
Oxygen Nitrogen Solutions Ltd has reported being overwhelmed with calls.
A representative said there has been a high demand.
At present all portable cylinders are sold out and only full size tanks are available.
The representative said their 220 tanks sell at $1,400 and are only being sold to those with prescriptions.
He said there are people buying and selling tanks for profit.
“We are unable to deal with the volume of calls. We are not accustomed to this,” he said.
The representative said he believes it would be better if people stop hoarding tanks, adding there should be a proper distribution network in place.
The representative said one customer claimed their relative was in an tent at one of the hospitals and needed a tank.
off the hook
The Express also spoke to a representative at AA Laquis yesterday who said all their tanks at all locations were sold out.
The representative said the phones have been ringing off the hook for tanks.
The cost of a size E tank is $2,000 at their stores.
At C&A Gas the representative said more tanks were expected by the weekend.
Portable tanks range between $2,200 to $2,800 with the biggest tank selling for $3500 inclusive of all accessories.
The representative said they too have a waiting list.
“It is a bit overwhelming but we have a strong supply, we have a waiting list so when we get we call the customers,” she said.