The impact of COVID-19 has had a significant negative impact on businesses across all sectors and taken a toll on healthcare systems and facilities in South Africa. In recent weeks, there have been news reports of a high demand for medical oxygen, putting immense pressure on oxygen suppliers and affecting industrial supply. In an attempt to assess the scale of the oxygen shortage, the Steel and Engineering Federation of South Africa, surveyed its member companies to investigate companies establish their experiences around oxygen shortage within the metals and engineering sector and to understand the impact of the shortage on their production levels and whether alternative supplies were being sought regarding input supply chains.
According to the survey results, which were sent to all 1,600 companies that are members of SEIFSA through its affiliated Associations, 76.92% of the respondents said they had experienced oxygen shortages and had considered alternative supplies in the process.
Several companies whose analytical instruments use oxygen had to alter their inspection regularly to reduce consumption and find alternative supply, in one case at a cost of R4,000 per bottle versus the standard cost of R140 per bottle. Some of the respondents mentioned that they were at risk of running out of oxygen within 14 days. Others said the impact had been so severe that they had had to apply for extensions on their projects or stop production altogether.