People prepare funeral pyres of those who died from the coronavirus disease, during a mass cremation, at a crematorium in New Delhi. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)

BRITAIN and the US rushed ventilators and vaccine materials to India on Monday (26) as the country battles a catastrophic, record-breaking coronavirus wave that has overwhelmed hospitals and set crematoriums working at full capacity.

London has sent more than 600 pieces of equipment to New Delhi to support its fight against the virus, following a request from India and with prime minister Boris Johnson pledging the UK would do “all it can” to help.

“We stand side by side with India as a friend and partner during what is a deeply concerning time in the fight against Covid-19,” Johnson said in a statement.

“Vital medical equipment, including hundreds of oxygen concentrators and ventilators, is now on its way from the UK to India to support efforts to prevent the tragic loss of life from this terrible virus.

“We will continue to work closely with the Indian government during this difficult time and I’m determined to make sure that the UK does everything it can to support the international community in the global fight against pandemic.”

Until the crisis broke, Johnson had been due to travel to the country on Sunday (25). But the three-day visit was called off.

Britain’s Foreign Office, which is funding the aid, said the first shipment will arrive in New Delhi in the early hours of Tuesday (27), with further shipments following later in the week.

In total, nine airline container-loads of supplies, including 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators, will be sent to the country, said the Foreign Office.

“We are supporting our Indian friends with vital medical equipment at a difficult time for them in this pandemic,” said foreign secretary Dominic Raab.

“We have all got to work together to tackle Covid-19. India is a very important partner to us, so we’re providing oxygen concentrators and ventilators to help save the lives of the most vulnerable. We will be following up on this first delivery with further support, based on our ongoing discussions with the Indian government.”

Determined to help, says Biden

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

Air India brought 328 oxygen concentrators to India on its New York-Delhi flight on Monday (26), civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said.

An Air India spokesperson said the airline is prepared to shoulder the responsibility of carrying oxygen concentrators or any consignment into India.

The US has assured India that it will immediately provide the specific raw materials required for manufacturing the Oxford AstraZeneca (known as Covishield in India) vaccine.

Expressing deep sympathy for the people of India following the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, US national security advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan, in a telephone call with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on Sunday, affirmed America’s solidarity with India. “Just as India sent assistance to the US as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the US is determined to help India in its time of need,” Emily Horne, spokesperson of the US NSA said after the phone call between Sullivan and Doval.

The US has identified supplies of therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that will immediately be made available for India.

“The US is working closely with the Indian government to rapidly deploy additional support and supplies during an alarming Covid-19 outbreak. As we provide assistance, we pray for the people of India —including its courageous healthcare workers,” vice president Kamala Harris said in a tweet.

US defence secretary Austin Lloyd has also directed the Pentagon to provide all necessary support to Indian healthcare workers battling the worsening coronavirus situation in the country.

“The men and women of the Department of Defense stand by our Indian partners in their hour of need. We are in this fight together,” Austin said in a statement.

The US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is funding a substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for BioE, the vaccine manufacturer in India, enabling BioE to ramp up to produce at least one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.

The US is deploying an expert team of public health advisors from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to work in close collaboration with the US Embassy, India’s health ministries, and India’s Epidemic Intelligence Service staff.

EU aid ‘soon’

India has asked the EU to send medical oxygen and Gilead’s antiviral drug Remdesivir to fight a surge in Covid-19 cases, an EU official said on Monday, adding that the aid could be made available soon.

“The Indians have asked for medical oxygen and antivirals, notably Remdesivir,” a spokesman for the EU Commission told a news conference.

Asked about whether the EU would limit flights from India, the spokesman said the EU continued to discourage non-essential travel to and from third countries.

Russian aid

Russian pharmaceutical firm Pharmasyntez said on Monday it was ready to ship up to a million packs of the Remdesivir Covid-19 treatment to India by the end of May, once it receives approval from the Russian government.

In comments to Reuters, the Russian drugmaker said it was waiting for a legal basis on which it could send the shipment of the generic version it produces of the US Covid-19 drug Remdesivir, used to treat US president Donald Trump.

‘Mission of support’

German chancellor Angela Merkel said her government is ‘urgently’ preparing a ‘mission of support’ for India.

In a message, Merkel said Germany stands in solidarity with India in the ‘common fight’ against the pandemic.

Australia has said that it will send oxygen, ventilators and personal protective equipment to India as part of an immediate support package to the country, health minister Greg Hunt said.INAVSHUKLA

Saudi Arabia has shipped 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to India as the country is running low on supplies due to an unprecedented spike in coronavirus cases.

The supply shipment is being undertaken in cooperation with the Adani group and Linde company.

“This first shipment of 4 ISO cryogenic tanks with 80 tons of liquid oxygen is now on its way from Dammam to Mundra,” Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani said in a tweet.

French president Emmanuel Macron expressed solidarity with India and offered his country’s support.

“I want to send a message of solidarity to the Indian people, facing a resurgence of Covid-19 cases. France is with you in this struggle, which spares no one. We stand ready to provide our support,” Macron said.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani too expressed solidarity with India as it reels under the second wave of the pandemic.