A man suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is comforted by his daughter as he receives treatment inside the casualty ward at a hospital in New Delhi. (REUTERS)
A man suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is comforted by his daughter as he receives treatment inside the casualty ward at a hospital in New Delhi. (REUTERS)

France sending 8 oxygen plants to help India tide over Covid-19 crisis

On Saturday over a lakh doses of Sputnik-V Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Hyderabad from Russia while Germán Air Force Airbus A350 cargo aircraft flew in with 120 oxygen ventilators to New Delhi.
UPDATED ON MAY 01, 2021 11:43 PM IST

The first consignment of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine was delivered to Hyderabad on Saturday even as France announced it would deliver 28 tonnes of medical equipment to support India’s response to a deadly second wave of Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections.

A special cargo flight will reach New Delhi early on May 2 with 28 tonnes of medical equipment worth more than 17 crore, including eight high capacity oxygen generator plants that will be delivered to six hospitals in Delhi and one each in Haryana and Telangana, the French embassy said.

This is the first phase of the solidarity mission deployed by President Emmanuel Macron to support India as part of the European Union’s coordinated response to the Covid-19 crisis. The French support is meant not only to provide immediate medical relief but also to boost India’s “strategic autonomy in healthcare”.

The eight oxygen generator plants from the French company Novair produce medical oxygen from ambient air to supply a hospital’s oxygen system or fill cylinders with a rate of 20,000 litres an hour.

Each plant can continuously supply a 250-bed hospital non-stop for a dozen years, providing enhanced resilience to peaks in oxygen demand and savings of up to 15 crore a year while eliminating safety issues related to liquid oxygen storage.

The plants will be delivered to hospitals based on needs identified by Indian authorities. Besides the oxygen plants, the flight will also carry 28 ventilators and 200 electric syringe pumps to be distributed to several hospitals to enhance their ICU capacities.

French ambassador Emmanuel Lenain said, “We stand by India in these difficult times, just as India has always stood by France. In spring 2020, when French hospitals were facing acute shortages, India provided lifesaving help through the export of critical medical drugs. The French people have not forgotten.”

This special French cargo flight was chartered free of charge by the French shipping group CMA CGM, and many other French firms present in India stepped up to pool their resources with the French government for the solidarity mission.

A second delivery of oxygen generators and medical equipment from France is underway, and French company Air Liquide will begin shipping several hundred tonnes of oxygen through a dedicated logistical bridge organised by the French and Indian governments and implemented with the Indian military.

The consignment of 150,000 doses of Sputnik V from Russia was delivered to Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, the first Indian pharmaceutical firm to tie up with the Russian vaccine’s developers last year for regulatory approvals and distribution.

The consignment will be rolled out after necessary clearances over the next few days, said Dr Reddy’s, which has secured emergency use authorisation from India’s drug regulator to import the shot. “This initial quantity will be used across different channels as a pilot to line up our supply chain for the larger vaccination program rollout,” the firm said.

Russian ambassador Nikolay Kudashev said in a statement that Sputnik V’s efficacy is “among the highest in the world”, and the vaccine will be “effective against new strains of Covid-19”. He added local production would start soon and be gradually ramped up to 850 million doses a year.

“As Russia and India continue dedicated joint efforts to combat the Covid-19, this move is especially important to support the Indian government’s endeavours to mitigate the deadly second wave and save lives,” Kudashev said. Two emergency flights from Russia delivered 20 tonnes of equipment, including oxygen concentrators, ventilators and medicines such as Coronavir on April 29.

Meanwhile, a Germán Air Force Airbus A350 cargo aircraft flew in with 120 oxygen ventilators to New Delhi on Saturday night. The equipment will be immediately handed over for distribution in cooperation with the Indian Red Cross Society, the external affairs ministry and other agencies, German ambassador Walter Lindner said.

Two Airbus A400 military transport aircraft will bring in a large mobile oxygen generation plant next week and 13 German technical personnel have reached India to install the plant and train Indian personnel.

A consignment of antiviral drug Remdesivir is expected from Germany, and a German agency will organise a webinar on virus sequencing for an Indian technical team.

“The #Covid19-pandemic strikes at the heart of India. We support India in its fight against the pandemic. Germany will send urgently needed goods to provide care to the patients,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas said in a tweet.

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