India fast-tracks HCQ supplies to UAE, leverages drug to get test kits elsewhere
The government is leveraging approvals for hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol export to expedite import of Covid-19 rapid testing kits, masks and personal protection equipment, or PPE
After supplying to most affected countries such as the US, Spain and the UK, India is all set to bulk supply hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to close allies Russia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and key partners in Latin America and Africa. A shipment of HCQ is also being sent to Dominican Republic, the current President of the UN Security Council, as well as Uganda and Ecuador, people familiar with the development said.
An official said India is also committed to supplying the two drugs to its special strategic partner Russia; Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken to PM Modi on March 25. But the special focus of the government at this point are the Gulf countries, particularly the UAE. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla are in constant touch with their Gulf counterparts. India has already sent a 15-member army medical team with supplies to Kuwait and supplied HCQ to Bahrain.
Global demand for hydroxychloroquine manufactured by India boosted after some studies indicated that the drug, when paired with azithromycin, helped clear patients of the virus at a much faster rate than seen usually.
The decision to quickly send the drugs to Abu Dhabi and Dubai was taken after UAE sent a request for 3.25 crore HCQ 200 mg tablets and 10 metric tonnes of active pharmaceutical ingredients. These commercial supplies will go through six Dubai-based consignees having contracts with Indian pharma majors in Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru.
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According to South Block officials, India has put the drug supplies to UAE and Jordan on a fast track as PrIme Minister Narendra Modi has a personal rapport with both UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and King Abdullah of Jordan. India has also offered to send more medical teams to the Gulf if required.
While India has been on the front foot in its fight against coronavirus by supplying drugs to other countries, it is also leveraging the drug to get supplies of rapid testing kits, N 95 masks, ventilators and PPE suits from a host of countries. Apart from China, whose first consignment of rapid testing kits has landed, India is getting supplies from the US, UK, Ireland, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Germany and Malaysia.
“All the heads of missions have been instructed to help procure key medical supplies that could include aluminium, ventilators and cylinders. Singapore is a hub for procurement with some friends such as Vietnam sending limited amounts of medical supplies as gifts,” said a senior official. PM Modi had spoken to his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Monday.
According to South Block officials, all drug supplies are being sent after reconciling the domestic demands, the requirements assessed by the Health Ministry and the capacity of Indian pharma industry.