As foreign aid arrives, Centre lays down plan to ensure swift distribution
As relief materials for India’s Covid-19 response began pouring in from countries such as the UK and Ireland, the government on Tuesday established procedures to ensure supplies, especially oxygen and related equipment, promptly reach the worst-hit areas across the country.
The UK and members of the European Union (EU), which activated its Civil Protection Mechanism for emergencies on Sunday, were among the first to respond to India’s pressing needs for oxygen and medical equipment as the country grapples with a devastating second wave of the pandemic that has seen six straight days of more than 300,000 infections.
People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that a high-level inter-ministerial group established procedures for immediate clearance of materials from abroad.
“The material would be dispatched promptly to recipient institutions in various parts of the country in coordination with different government agencies,” said one of the persons cited above.
A total of 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators arrived from the UK on Tuesday, part of a package of 495 oxygen concentrators and 140 ventilators pledged by London, while France is sending eight large oxygen generating plants that can each meet the needs of a 250-bed hospital and five containers of liquid oxygen that can cater to the needs of 10,000 patients a day.
Germany is sending a mobile oxygen production plant that will be available for three months, 120 ventilators and more than 80 million KN95 masks. Other EU members have pledged more oxygen-related equipment, ranging from 700 oxygen concentrators being sent by Ireland on Wednesday to smaller batches of ventilators and oxygen concentrators from countries such as Romania, Luxembourg and Sweden.
Belgium is sending 9,000 doses of Remdesivir while Portugal will provide more than 5,500 vials of the antiviral medicine and 20,000 litres of oxygen per week.
Following discussions between India and American officials, the US is finalising a support package that is expected to include oxygen generation systems, both small and large-scale, and components for the oxygen supply chain such as concentrators, ventilators, cylinders and transport. The aid could include oxygen generation systems for field hospitals that cater for 50 to 100 beds.
The US will also provide therapeutics, personal protective equipment and rapid diagnostic test kits, and approve the supply of vaccine raw materials such as filters needed to manufacture Covishield vaccine in line with pledges made by President Joe Biden during his conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.
The two sides are holding technical discussions to ensure the equipment supplied by the US can connect to devices in India, and the American side will provide training for using all the equipment and help with their transportation.
“US commercial suppliers of Remdesivir that are immediately available have been identified. Rapid diagnostic test supplies and PPEs that can be transferred to India immediately have also been identified. Besides, the US will facilitate India’s access to supplies from US-based sources,” said a second person.
India is also expected to benefit as and when the US begins donating up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from its stockpile after the shot clears federal safety approvals.
Besides the donations, India has secured medical supplies through private and commercial channels.
These include 500 BiPAPs, 250 oxygen concentrators and four cryogenic oxygen containers sourced from Singapore, 80 tonnes of liquid oxygen being shipped via sea from Saudi Arabia, 800 oxygen concentrators from Hong Kong, four cryogenic oxygen tanks from Thailand, six cryogenic containers from the United Arab Emirates, and 23 mobile oxygen generation plants being imported from Germany by the Armed Forces Medical Services.
Officially, India has issued no appeal for international aid in keeping with the government’s stated policy. However, Janez Lenarčič, the EU commissioner for crisis management, noted on Sunday that the support is being provided in response to an Indian request.