The first emergency medical supplies have trickled into COVID-stricken India as part of a global campaign to staunch a catastrophic wave in the latest pandemic hotspot. The United States also pledges to export millions of AstraZeneca vaccines.
India’s infection and death rates are growing exponentially, overwhelming hospitals, unlike some wealthier western nations that are starting to ease restrictions. The virus has killed over 3.1 million people worldwide, with India driving the latest surge in global case numbers.
India recorded 323,144 new cases on Tuesday and 2,771 deaths, with the rising instances placing extreme pressure on the country’s health system. Crates of ventilators and oxygen concentrators from the UK were unloaded at a Delhi airport early Tuesday, the first shipment to arrive in the country to deal with the crisis. “International cooperation at work,” foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi tweeted alongside photos of the crates.
Elsewhere in the capital, AFP images showed Covid victims burning on funeral pyres set up in rows, the earth between them scorched by embers and littered with ash.
“So many people are dying because they are unable to get the most basic services,” Vinod Kumar told AFP outside a Delhi hospital as he tried to buy medication for a sick family member.
“This government has failed us so much.”
‘We will be there for them.’
US President Joe Biden promised the United States would send up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine abroad.
The offer came with Washington under pressure to lift restrictions on exporting vaccine and vaccine supplies.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the recipient countries had not yet been decided and that the administration was still formulating its distribution plan.
But India appeared to be a leading contender after Mr. Biden spoke with his counterpart Prime Minister Narendra Modi – whose Hindu-nationalist government is under fire for allowing mass gatherings such as religious festivals and political rallies in recent weeks.
“India was there for us, and we will be there for them,” Mr. Biden tweeted after the call with Mr. Modi.
Others, including Australia, have also rushed to pledge help.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia would send an urgent shipment of medical supplies and personal protective equipment. Mr. Morrison said the “initial package of support” would include “500 non-invasive ventilators, 1 million surgical masks, 500,000 PPE N95 masks, 100,000 surgical gowns, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves, 20,000 face shields”. “We will commence procurement of 100 oxygen concentrators with tanks and consumables,” he told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “DFAT will manage the movement of this equipment over the next week.”