Supplies of Covid homecare devices such as oxygen concentrators and oximeters from China could ease as chartered and cargo flights from the neighbouring country and Hong Kong resume operations. That could help meet the pressing need for such products as the country seeks to cope with the current surge in infections and people struggle for access to oxygen amid a lack of hospital beds.
Chinese manufacturers have also stepped up production of such items, several medical device makers and importers said. Importers have lined up consignments every alternate day with demand outstripping supply.
However, consumers may have to pay Rs 3,000-10,000 more for oxygen concentrators, depending on the specification, as Chinese suppliers have raised prices and freight costs have increased.
Sourcing costs for oximeters from Chinese companies have also risen from $3-4 to $6 per unit, which will lead to a price increase.
“Supplies have been much better with flights having resumed in the last one-two days. We are now getting consignments every alternate day,” said Gizmore CEO Sanjay Kalirona. “While the supplies have improved for the regular at-home units, for high-end units with higher oxygen delivery capabilities, the lead time has increased to 20 days due to limited production.”
Sichuan Airlines, which had stopped cargo services to India for more than a week, will restart services on Sunday.
Most cargo operators had suspended flights due to the fear of infection from India’s second wave, lack of consignments to take back on the return leg and the five-day Labour Day break in China from May 1.
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (Ficci) has asked the government if its members can book Indian carriers to pick up inventory from China to transport life-saving devices quickly at a reasonable freight cost, said BPL Medical Technologies CEO Sunil Khurana.
“Even though chartered flights have resumed, still a few shared cargo flights and carriers are cancelling at the last minute, which mounts pressure as we have back-to-back customer commitments and carry risk of higher cost of transportation,” he said.
Companies said they expect supplies to improve next week onward.
The push by corporates, charity organisations and individuals to procure oxygen concentrators has put intense pressure on supply chains, logistics and airlines, said Intex director Keshav Bansal.
“The manufacturers and airlines are working overtime to fulfil the demand. I presume the situation will get better in a week’s time,” he said.