New Delhi: India has sent a 10-tonne consignment of essential life-saving medicines, including hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and paracetamol, to Sri Lanka in view of the Covid-19 crisis, diplomatic sources told ThePrint.
However, MEA sources said the medicines supplied to Sri Lanka were those from the open list (non-restricted) and did not include HCQ and paracetamol.
A statement issued by the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka said the consignment was sent to Colombo Tuesday by an Air India special charter flight. It was sent as a donation under the SAARC framework.
“This is yet another manifestation of India’s unwavering commitment to stand with Sri Lanka, in rain and in shine. Despite its own domestic challenges and constraints, India has always believed in sharing its resources and expertise with its friends and partners,” the statement added.
Earlier in the day, the Modi government partially lifted the ban on the export of HCQ and paracetamol on a case-to-case basis after assessing domestic requirement. The two drugs continue to remain on the restricted list of items to export, owing to the high global demand.
A few clinical trials have shown limited success of hydroxychloroquine in treating the Covid-19 infection. Since paracetamol is prescribed for relief from pain and to reduce fever, this drug can help alleviate some symptoms of the coronavirus disease.
Apart from SAARC countries, the US and other European countries have also sought the supply of HCQ and paracetamol from India, which remains ahead in the manufacturing of these drugs.
India’s SAARC initiative
In a post on Twitter, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “warm gesture” and said the “kind & generous support” is appreciated.
I wish to convey my heartfelt appreciation to Hon PM @narendramodi, Govt & people of #India for your warm gesture in sending medicines to #LKA on a special chartered flight. Your kind & generous support is deeply appreciated in this hour of need #TogetherWeCan #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/XpcUw9xK6d
— Gotabaya Rajapaksa (@GotabayaR) April 7, 2020
Apart from Sri Lanka, other SAARC countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan have also sought a supply of these medicines and other supplies from India.
Last month, PM Modi had sprung a diplomatic surprise by reaching out to the eight-nation grouping and urging its leaders to come together to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
“I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus. We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy. Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet,” he had tweeted on 13 March.
Two days later, the video conference was held, during which India pledged $10 million to the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund. Sri Lanka has also contributed $5 million into the fund.
Subsequently, a video conference of health professionals in SAARC countries was held on 26 March.
India’s health ministry also started offering online training sessions for health professionals in these countries. The SAARC Disaster Management Centre situated in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, has also developed a dedicated webpage pertaining to the COVID-19 situation in SAARC Member States.