‘On the way’: Centre to states awaiting Covid-19 supplies
As questions continued to swirl on Tuesday regarding allocation of oxygen-related equipment and supplies provided by other countries to back India’s Covid-19 response, the government said it had framed a standard operating procedure (SOP) for distribution of aid to states with higher number of active cases.
Medical infrastructure of 38 institutions across 31 states, stretched thin because of an unprecedented surge in Coronavirus infections, was strengthened using supplies from around the world, the Centre said. The supplies have either reached the state or are on their way, it added.
Officials in at least five of these 31 states listed in a statement issued by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) – Assam, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal – said they were yet to receive any of the foreign aid.
It also emerged from the PIB’s statement that the SOP for distributing foreign aid materials was framed by the Union health ministry on May 2, whereas supplies procured from abroad under commercial contracts began entering the country on April 25 and aid from other countries started arriving from April 27.
According to an official count, India has already received 1,656 oxygen concentrators, 965 ventilators, 1,782 oxygen cylinders, 17 large cylinders, 20 large oxygen concentrators, 150 bedside monitors, 480 BiPAPs, 20 high flow humidifying oxygen therapy devices, nine oxygen generation plants, 136,000 doses of Remdesivir, 200000 packs of Favipiravir and other supplies.
The PIB statement said a total of almost 400,000 items across 24 categories had been distributed to the 38 institutions in different states. The major categories of equipment sent to the states included BiPAP machines, oxygen concentrators, cylinders, oxygen plants, pulse oximeters, drugs such as Favipiravir and Remdesivir, and personal protective equipment. The statement did not give specific break-ups of what each state had received.
The government of Delhi, where several hospitals have witnessed repeated shortages of oxygen, said it hadn’t received any communication from the Centre about foreign aid. “We have not got anything from them as such. They are directly reaching out to hospitals instead of the state governments...,” said a government spokesperson.
Four hospitals in Delhi received large oxygen generation plants from France as grants, and at least two – installed at the privately run BLK Hospital and Narayana Super Specialty Hospital – had started functioning. These plants are capable of producing 22 cubic metres of oxygen an hour, and provide about 20% additional oxygen back-up a day.
Officials in Maharashtra’s health department said the state hasn’t received any of the foreign aid. “We have been getting medical materials regularly from the Centre. We received a stock of Remdesivir injections about a week ago, but it was not from the relief materials from other countries,” said an official from the public health department.
“Uttarakhand has not received any foreign Covid-19 aid. And we are not aware of the Centre sending any of the supplies it has received from other countries to the state,” said JC Pandey, the state health department’s spokesman. State health minister Rajesh Tope said, “We would like to request the Central government to allocate maximum possible stocks to Maharashtra from the donations received from other countries.
West Bengal’s health secretary NS Nigam too said no foreign aid had reached the state. “As of now, nothing. But there are indications that we may get some supplies, such as RT-PCR test kits soon,” he said.
NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, who heads a committee overseeing the distribution of foreign aid, dismissed media reports about delays in allocation of supplies. “There is a government-to-government approval. Allocations are done by the health ministry. Private donations are all tracked and every donor will know where the goods are going,” he said.
A senior central government official, requesting anonymity, said: “The entire process is absolutely transparent, and is in addition to the support that the Central government is providing to states to manage the pandemic. The supplies are being closely monitored on a daily basis, and are directed to areas wherever there is a need for augmentation.”
But as questions have persisted about the allocation of relief materials, some countries have begun specifying where their supplies should go. For instance, France specified that eight oxygen generation plants provided by it should be distributed among hospitals in Delhi, Haryana and Telangana.