With India’s continuing COVID-19 crisis, procuring medical and oxygen-related support with a sense of urgency amid alarming shortages has emerged as a pressing priority. Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla said last week support is being worked out from at least 40 countries, with capacity-boosting supplies expected to arrive from Egypt, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Guyana, apart from Russia, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Aid and supplies were flown in from across the world all of last week, marking a change in the government’s policy of not accepting aid that is “tied” to specific donees even as there were calls for the government to be more transparent about how it plans to route the massive shipments of aid coming in.


Timely aid: A plane loaded with cargo for India at the Travis Air Force Base in California.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on Wednesday announced that the “world’s largest military aircraft” had left Travis Air Force Base in California for New Delhi carrying supplies that included 440 oxygen cylinders donated by the State of California, 1,00,000 N95 masks and 960,000 rapid diagnostic tests, USAID said. The agency is procuring 1,000 oxygen concentrators and said it had sent over $23 million in assistance to India since the start of the pandemic.

Two planeloads of COVID-19 supplies from Russia landed in New Delhi on Thursday, comprising about 22 tonnes of ventilators, oxygen concentrators and medicines, including a Russian-made version of the widely used drug Favipiravir. The cargo, that came as a grant from Moscow, followed a telephone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi late on Wednesday, in which the two leaders decided to upgrade contacts and institute a “2+2” format of talks between Foreign and Defence Ministers.

The U.S., Romania, Ireland, and the United Kingdom on Friday all flew in a large quantity of oxygen-related items and medicines to deal with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and “reviewed” the ongoing American efforts to bolster India’s position to counter COVID-19.

China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday sent a message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi offering China’s support in dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Mr. Xi’s message, the first such known communication between the two leaders following the pandemic and last year’s border crisis, was followed by a telephone call on Friday from China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to his counterpart S. Jaishankar. Mr. Wang had also sent a message to Mr. Jaishankar on Thursday offering China’s support.

India on Sunday received assistance from Taiwan including oxygen concentrators and cylinders, with more batches of medical equipment set to follow from Taipei. A first batch, consisting of 50 oxygen concentrators and 500 oxygen cylinders, landed in New Delhi on Sunday on a Boeing 747 of China Airlines, the government-owned airline of Taiwan. India has preferred to source medical supplies from China on a commercial basis. A large number of such orders have been placed by Indian companies with Chinese firms, with the production “of at least 40,000 oxygen generators” currently under way, China’s Ambassador to India Sun Weidong told the Communist Party-run Global Times.

Meanwhile, a significant number of foreign diplomats in the national capital have been hit by COVID-19’s deadly second wave. The situation was brought to light on Saturday evening with the Embassy of the Philippines reaching out to the volunteers of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) seeking oxygen cylinders. The health crisis in the diplomatic enclave has spread to several foreign missions including the New Zealand High Commission which sought help from the IYC publicly on Sunday morning triggering an online exchange between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday defended his government’s decision to ban and impose a jail term and a penalty for Australians trying to return from India, saying it is in the country’s “best interests” and to prevent a third wave of infections.

The U.S. is also curtailing travel. In view of the very high numbers of COVID-19 cases and multiple strains of the virus in India, the United States will restrict travel of non-citizens from the country, starting on Tuesday, Eastern U.S. time.(the Hindu)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here