France, Australia, EU extend help amid crisis
France, Australia and the European Union (EU) on Friday offered support and solidarity to India as it grappled with a massive surge in coronavirus infections that has stretched medical facilities across the country and resulted in shortages of oxygen and medicines.
French ambassador Emmanuel Lenain tweeted a message from President Emmanuel Macron about providing support for India’s Covid-19 response, while cooperation on pandemic-related issues figured in a virtual meeting between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and European Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager.
“I want to send a message of solidarity to the Indian people, facing a resurgence of Covid-19 cases. France is with you in this struggle, which spares no-one. We stand ready to provide our support,” Macron was quoted as saying by the French envoy.
Though the meeting between Jaishankar and Vestager largely focused on preparations for the virtual India-EU Summit next month, the two leaders also discussed India’s Covid-19 response. “Appreciated the support offered by EU on Covid challenges currently faced by India. Confident that EU will help strengthen our capabilities at this critical juncture,” Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting.
European Council President Charles Michel too said in a tweet that the EU “stands in solidarity with Indian people amidst [the] resurgent #COVID19 pandemic”. He added the fight against the virus is a “common fight” and said the EU would discuss its support and cooperation at the India-EU Summit on May 8.
Australian foreign minister Marise Payne extended solidarity to India “as it tackles this latest COVID-19 outbreak” and said in a tweet: “India’s generosity and leadership in providing vaccines to our region is appreciated. We will continue to work together closely to respond to this global crisis.”
Meanwhile, China on Friday said it was holding talks with India on sending assistance to New Delhi to fight the surge in Coronavirus cases, a day after offering to help with support.
“Based on the needs [of the] Indian side, we stand ready to offer support and assistance. We are now holding communications with the Indian side,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a briefing in Beijing. He didn’t give details of the assistance China intended to provide.
India on Friday recorded the world’s highest daily tally of coronavirus cases for the second day in a row, with daily deaths too recording a jump. With 332,730 new cases, India’s total caseload crossed 16 million, and the official death toll rose by 2,263 to touch 186,920, according to health ministry data.
As the cases surged, Canada announced it would temporarily bar passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days as part of stricter measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acted after prominent opposition politicians complained Ottawa hasn’t done enough to combat a third wave of infections in Canada. The ban will not affect cargo flights.
Canada’s health minister Patty Hajdu said while Indian citizens accounted for 20% of all international arrivals, they represented more than 50% of positive tests conducted by Canadian authorities. “By eliminating direct travel from these countries, public health experts will have the time to evaluate the ongoing epidemiology of that region and to reassess the situation,” she said.
France imposed a 10-day quarantine requirement for travellers from India, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and South Africa, while Indonesia on Friday announced a ban on all travellers from India that will come into force on April 25.
“The government has decided to stop granting visas to foreign nationals who live in or have visited India in the past 14 days,” economic affairs minister Airlangga Hartarto, who heads Indonesia’s Covid-19 handling and economic recovery committee, told a news conference.
Australia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, the US, Britain and New Zealand have imposed travel restrictions on India or issued advisories against travelling to India.