Life-saving medical equipment from Scotland and Wales has arrived in India to help the country cope with the fallout from the world’s largest recorded wave of Covid-19 infections so far in the pandemic.
Holyrood has sent 40 ventilators and 100 oxygen concentrators – machines that turn the nitrogen-heavy ambient air we breathe into near-pure oxygen. They arrived on Friday night and will be distributed by the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS).
The vital cargo comes on the heels of a delivery of 638 oxygen concentrators and 351 ventilators from the Welsh Government and NHS Wales, which arrived over Wednesday and Thursday, also to be distributed by the IRCS.
Devastating scenes unfolded as India’s second wave saw infections soar to a peak of more than 400,000 per day earlier this month, with hospitals forced to turn many in need away due to a lack of beds, medical equipment and oxygen. Hundreds of those lucky enough merely to be admitted are reported to have died as oxygen supplies momentarily ran dry.
While the reported number of new daily cases now appears to be approaching closer to 250,000 and, according to the Hindustan Times, hospital discharges now outnumber admissions for the first time in nearly two months, the country’s health system remains overstretched after weeks spent teetering on the brink of collapse.
India this week set a new world record for daily deaths, which reached 4,529 on Wednesday.
The devices sent from Scotland and Wales can be used in hospitals and intensive care wards, with some local governments in India now reportedly sending oxygen concentrators home with patients.
Local media cited a Delhi government official this week as saying the state had sent more than 350 of the devices to individuals across 11 districts, after it launched an oxygen concentrator bank.
The equipment sent over from the UK comes from surplus stocks across the four nations based on the needs identified by the Indian government, according to the Scottish Government, and was funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Scotland's health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The coronavirus situation in India is a human tragedy. We are working with the other UK nations to help tackle the crisis by providing equipment that can be used immediately to save lives.
“Solidarity with other countries remains of key importance throughout this global pandemic and we will continue to make contributions within the international community, while tackling Covid-19 here in Scotland.
“There are a number of ways to donate to the response effort, including the British Asian Trust’s ‘Oxygen for India’ Emergency Appeal, and the Disasters Emergency Committee, which has extended its Coronavirus Appeal to include India.”
The Senedd’s health minister Eluned Morgan said: “Covid-19 is a global emergency and as such it is right that we are part of the global response, supporting other nations.
“We have worked closely with the UK government and the government of India on the logistics and arranged for supplies of ventilators and oxygen concentrators to be transported to India and distributed to the hospitals where they are needed most.”
It is one of a series of care packages to have arrived from the UK in recent weeks, with the first delivery in late April providing 200 ventilators and 495 oxygen concentrators.
Earlier this month, the world’s biggest cargo plane flew over from Belfast with three surplus 18-tonne oxygen generators supplied by Northern Ireland’s Department for Health, plus a further 1,000 ventilators offered by the Department of Health and Social Care.
“The UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments are working together to support India in its struggle against Covid,” said UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab.
“Our contribution of more oxygen concentrators and ventilators will save lives – and help our Indian friends overcome the virus.”
Additional reporting by PA