USAID chief meets Jaishankar; discusses COVID-19 assistance to India

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Washington, May 29 (PTI) USAID administrator Samantha Power met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during which they discussed shared priorities for development and humanitarian assistance amid the current surge of COVID-19 across India, a spokesperson of the agency said on Friday.

“Power and Jaishankar discussed areas for important collaboration on pandemic response efforts in India, as well as strategies to catalyse private capital to save lives, counter the spread of the pandemic, and strengthen health systems for the future,” USAID acting spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala said.

The meeting took place on Thursday.

The two leaders also discussed opportunities to strengthen developmental cooperation through Quad and with India’s Development Partnership Administration, including through collaboration with third-country partners in the Indo-Pacific, Africa and other regions, she said.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided major COVID-19 assistance to India.

Talking to reporters, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Dean Thompson stated that just as India helped the US when they were in a challenging situation last year, the Biden administration has resolved to help India, most recently by deploying seven plane loads of oxygen and oxygen-related equipment, therapeutic medicine, PPE kits and rapid diagnostic tests.

“We have also redirected one of our own orders of critical vaccine manufacturing supplies, which will allow India to make over 20 million additional doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. In total, the US government, state governments, US companies and private citizens have provided over USD 500 million worth COVID-19 relief supplies to India,” he said.

“The latest crisis has only strengthened our commitment to working together on COVID-19 response, which will be essential to help the world recover from the pandemic. Expanding the production of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is a top priority for both the United States and India,” he said.

Thompson said the essential supplies provided to India included courses of remdesivir to help treat critically-ill patients, 1,500 oxygen cylinders to address India’s critical oxygen shortage (these can be repeatedly refilled as well at local supply centres), 1 million rapid diagnostic tests in order to quickly identify COVID-19 cases, and nearly 2.5 million N-95 masks to protect healthcare professionals.

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