Global community rushes medical supplies, relief materials to India to combat COVID surge

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Washington, Apr 29 (PTI) The international community on Thursday rushed much-needed medical supplies, relief materials, life-saving drugs as well as finance assistance to India to help the country combat the massive surge in the coronavirus cases.

India is struggling with a second wave of the pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days, and hospitals are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.

The US has said that it will be delivering COVID-19 relief materials worth over USD 100 million to India in the coming days, as the first flight carrying urgent health supplies left for the country.

The flight took off from the Travis Air Force Base on the world's largest military aircraft on Wednesday night, the US Agency for International Development said.

The shipment includes 440 oxygen cylinders and regulators, generously donated by the state of California, USAID said.

In addition, on this first flight, USAID is sending 960,000 Rapid Diagnostic Tests to identify infections early to help prevent the community spread of COVID-19, and 100,000 N95 masks to protect India's frontline healthcare heroes, it added.

US state governments, private companies, non-government organisations and thousands of Americans from across the country have mobilised to deliver vital oxygen-related equipment and essential supplies to Indian hospitals during the current outbreak, the White House said.

According to the White House, an initial delivery of 1,100 cylinders will remain in India and can be repeatedly refilled at local supply centres, with planeloads more to come.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also locally procured oxygen cylinders and will deliver them to support hospital systems in coordination with the government of India, it said. The US is providing Oxygen Generation Units (PSA Systems) as well.

The US is further providing 15 million N95 masks to protect both patients and Indian health care personnel.

The Biden administration has re-directed its own order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India. This will allow India to make over 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, the White House said.

According to a fact sheet issued by the White House, the US is providing the first tranche of a planned 20,000 treatment courses of the antiviral drug remdesivir to help treat hospitalised patients.

The US also launched joint public messaging with UNICEF on COVID prevention that has reached more than 84 million people and provided 200 state-of-the-art ventilators to 29 healthcare facilities in 15 states to care for critically-ill COVID-19 patients, it said.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the US is committed to use every resource at its disposal to support India’s frontline healthcare workers in their battle against COVID-19.

The Department of Defence on Wednesday airlifted the first shipment of American aid to India from a military base in California. The flight is scheduled to land in India on Thursday.

Bangladesh on Thursday said it stands in solidarity with India at this 'critical moment' and offered to send emergency medicines and medical equipment supplies to its close neighbour to combat the massive surge in the coronavirus cases.

The supplies include about 10,000 vials of injectable anti-viral, oral anti-viral, 30,000 PPE kits and several thousand zinc, calcium, vitamin C and other necessary tablets, Bangladesh foreign ministry said in a statement in Dhaka.

The government said that if needed Dhaka would provide further support to India.

Several countries, including Russia, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Singapore, Portugal, Sweden, New Zealand, Kuwait and Mauritius have announced medical assistance to India to help it fight the pandemic.

A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the United Nations team in India is supporting the country’s authorities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing critical supplies and its agencies are procuring thousands of oxygen concentrators, oxygen generating plants and other essential equipment as well as helping set up mobile hospital units.

'Our team there, led by Resident Coordinator Renata Lok Dessallien, is supporting the authorities’ response to the pandemic by providing equipment and supplies, including to local governments,” Deputy Spokesman for Guterres, Farhan Haq, told reporters on Wednesday.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) are procuring equipment and supplies, including 7,000 oxygen concentrators and 500 nasal devices for oxygen supply, as well as oxygen generating plants, COVID-19 testing machines, and personal protective kits, he said.

The WHO said in a press release that filling critical gaps in essential medical supplies and hospital capacities should be the top priority as India battles surge in COVID-19 cases. WHO is chartering flights to bring in 4,000 oxygen concentrators to help meet the increased demands.

India saw a record single day rise of 3,79,257 new coronavirus infections pushing the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,83,76,524, while the death toll increased to 2,04,832 with a record 3,645 daily new fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Thursday. PTI TEAM ZH AKJ ZH ZH