• Thursday, October 06, 2022

Covid in India

India gets support from across the globe

Family members and ambulance workers in PPE kits carry the bodies of victims who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus at a crematorium in New Delhi on April 27, 2021 (Photo: PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images).

By: Pramod Thomas

THE first emergency medical supplies trickled into Covid-stricken India on Tuesday (27) as part of a global campaign to staunch a catastrophic wave in the latest pandemic hotspot, with the US also pledging to export millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses.

India’s infection and death rates are growing exponentially, overwhelming hospitals, in contrast to some wealthier Western nations that are starting to ease restrictions.

The virus has now killed more than 3.1 million people worldwide, with India driving the latest surge in global case numbers, recording over 350,000 new infections on Tuesday.

Crates of ventilators and oxygen concentrators from Britain were unloaded at a Delhi airport early Tuesday, the first emergency medical supplies to arrive in the country.

Elsewhere in the capital AFP images showed smoke billowing from dozens of pyres lit inside a parking lot that has been turned into a makeshift crematorium.

The US, France, Germany, Canada and the World Health Organization have all promised to rush supplies to India.

President Joe Biden announced on Monday (26) the US would send up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine abroad.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the recipient countries had not yet been decided and that the administration was still formulating its distribution plan.

But India appeared to be a leading contender after Biden spoke with prime minister Narendra Modi — whose Hindu-nationalist government is under fire for allowing mass gatherings such as religious festivals and political rallies in recent weeks.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday described the situation in India as “beyond heartbreaking”.

“WHO is doing everything we can, providing critical equipment and supplies,” Tedros said.

‘US working nonstop’

The Biden Administration is working nonstop to do all it can to deliver on an urgent basis the supplies most needed by India to combat the deadly Covid-19 wave, the US state department has said.

“We are working nonstop across the government to do all we can to deliver on an urgent basis the supplies most needed within India, and that includes oxygen assistance and related materials, but it also includes supplies for therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, personal protective equipment, or PPE, all supplies to protect India’s frontline healthcare workers,” said state department spokesperson Ned Price.

“We have a global comprehensive strategic partnership with India. This is not about shots in arms in return for political favours, in return for any sort of transactionalism. This is about America’s humanitarian leadership, the commitment that this administration has to help those most in need.”

The assistance includes raw materials urgently required for the manufacture of the Covishield vaccine, he added.

The US is also deploying an expert team of public health advisers from the CDC to work in close collaboration with the US embassy on the ground, India’s health ministries and its epidemic intelligence staff.

The US has provided nearly $19 million in total assistance, which includes nearly $11 million and health assistance to help India.

The CDC has also committed $3.6 million to assist the government of India’s response to the epidemic.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has said that it is working on a war footing to begin delivery of essential medical supplies to India in the next few days.

“We are in close communication with the government of India to ensure that we are providing India’s frontline healthcare workers with any support we can offer within our authority,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

“In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to coordinate with our allies and like-minded countries to ensure that our collective efforts are closely synchronised and poised to have the maximal impact in mitigating this crisis.”

Ireland sends oxygen concentrators

Ireland on Tuesday announced that it will send 700 oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies to India.

The Irish embassy said that the oxygen concentrators are expected to reach India by Wednesday (28) morning.

Irish ambassador Brendan Ward said Ireland is in close contact with the Indian government and that it is looking at more assistance to India in dealing with the pandemic.

“The situation in India is being followed closely in Ireland where there is now a large Indian community. Indian medical professionals are very important to our health system,” he said.

The Irish embassy added that the country has also pledged to send ventilators to India and the the gesture of solidarity is a part of the EU’s coordinated response to help the country overcome the surge in Covid-19 cases.

“India and Ireland have a strong relationship spanning decades. We are happy that during these difficult times, the Irish government has extended an arm to support our war against COVID 19 and aid the healthcare workers,” said India director of IDA Ireland Tanaz Buhariwalla.

French support

France has announced that it is sending oxygen generators, liquid oxygen containers, ventilators and other medical supplies by air and sea to support India.

The French ministry for Europe and foreign affairs said it is carrying out an “exceptional solidarity mission” to assist Indian people following a call for support by French president Emmanuel Macron.

“France and India have always stood by each other’s side in difficult times. This solidarity is at the core of our strategic partnership and the friendship between the Indian and the French peoples,” it said.

“Coordinated by the ministry’s Crisis and Support Centre and carried out by the Embassy of France in India, the mission will involve shipping by air and sea freight by the end of this week.”

French ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain said the “massive solidarity mission” is being supported by the EU and French companies present in India.

The French foreign ministry said the medical supplies will include eight oxygen generators, each capable of uninterrupted supply of oxygen for a 250-bed hospital for nearly 10 years.

“Each unit can uninterruptedly supply a 250-bed hospital. Its oxygen output can fulfil the needs of 15 critically ill Covid-19 patients in an ICU (or 30 patients in the ICU of a conventional hospital) or 150 patients on oxygen therapy in a conventional hospital facility. These oxygen generators also include ramps for filling oxygen cylinders,” it said.

The ministry said five containers of liquid medical oxygen are being sent as part of the first instalment, adding they are capable of supplying medical oxygen to up to 10,000 patients per day.

France is also sending to India 28 ventilators and their consumables, as well as 200 electric syringe pumps.

India imports cryogenic tankers

India has imported 20 cryogenic tankers of 10 and 20 metric tonnes (MT) capacity and allocated them to states to address the shortage of oxygen tankers in the country.

“The mapping of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) from manufacturing plants to different states is a dynamic process. Transportation of medical oxygen through cryogenic tankers is becoming a bottleneck in making available LMO from the eastern part of the country to other parts. Hence 20 cryogenic ISO containers of capacity 20 MT and 10 MT have been imported to augment the transportation of oxygen, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry of road transport and highways in consultation with the department for promotion of industry and internal trade have mapped the allocation of these containers to suppliers in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi, the ministry added.

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