Global pledges of help for Covid-stricken India

Indian health workers attend to a suspected Covid-19 positive patient at the Covid-19 hospital in Kolkata, Eastern India, 24 April 2021. India recorded a massive surge of 332,730 fresh Covid-19 cases and 2,263 deaths, the highest single-day spike in COVID-19 infections. [EPA-EFE/PIYAL ADHIKARY]

The European Commission has activated its EU Civil Protection Mechanism and is seeking to send oxygen and medicine to virus-hit India after receiving a request from Delhi. Several Western nations have also pledged help.

India has seen a massive surge in COVID-19 cases in recent days, with hospitals in the capital and across the country turning away patients after running out of medical oxygen and beds.

The country, which has a population of 1.3 billion, has driven increases in global case numbers in recent days, recording 349,691 new infections and 2,767 deaths on Sunday — the highest since the start of the pandemic.

“Alarmed by the epidemiological situation in India. We are ready to support,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter on Sunday (25 April).

“The EU executive is already coordinating with EU countries that are ready to provide urgently needed oxygen & medicine rapidly,” European Commission for humanitarian aid Janez Lenarcic wrote on Twitter.

President Joe Biden said the United States was “determined to help India in its time of need,” immediately making available supplies of vaccine-production material, therapeutics, tests, ventilators and protective equipment.

France and Germany have also pledged help.

France will send oxygen respiratory equipment to India in the coming days to help the country deal with the serious COVID-19 crisis there, the office of French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday.

Germany will send oxygen and medical aid to India in the coming days to help it tackle its COVID-19 crisis, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday.

“The second wave is currently rolling over India with unprecedented power. It was right that we acted quickly to stop the entry of the new mutation in Germany,” Maas told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

Germany has classified India as a coronavirus high incidence area and also put the country on a separate warning list for coronavirus variants.

From Monday onwards, Germans arriving from India will only be allowed to enter the country with a negative test result and will then have to begin a 14-day quarantine. Foreign travellers coming from India will no longer be allowed to enter Germany.

Mass said Germany would do its utmost to help India overcome the emergency.

A German defence ministry spokeswoman said the foreign ministry had asked the military to look into providing a mobile oxygen production facility as well as support to transport other emergency and relief goods to India.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday expressed her “sympathy over the terrible suffering” that the pandemic had brought to India.

“Germany stands in solidarity with India and is urgently preparing a mission of support,” Merkel said in a statement.

Boosting vaccination

“The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine,” a White House statement said, referring to the India-produced version of the AstraZeneca shot.

But it did not mention whether the US would send millions of surplus AstraZeneca vaccine doses to India, after top US pandemic adviser Anthony Fauci said Sunday that would be considered.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the country had been shaken by a “storm” as he called on people to get vaccinated and not “get swayed by any rumour about the vaccines”.

The country has administered almost 141 million vaccine shots so far, but experts say the mass inoculation programme needs to be significantly stepped up.

Arch-foe Pakistan offered support and assistance as Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted prayers for a “speedy recovery”.

Other countries imposed travel restrictions. Thailand on Sunday became the latest country to bar foreigners departing from India.

Neighbouring Bangladesh, which shares a 4,000-kilometre border with India, will halt land crossings for two weeks, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told AFP.

Experts have long warned that it is in the global interest for wealthier countries to help large, lower-income nations like India to vaccinate their populations to hasten the end of the pandemic.

A weeklong lockdown in Delhi, the megacity of 20 million, set to last until Monday, was extended by one week.

On Sunday, Twitter confirmed it had withheld dozens of tweets critical of the unfolding crisis at the request of the Indian government.

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