New Delhi: From masks and medicines to oxygen cylinders and concentrators, the US Thursday said that Covid-19 emergency supplies worth more than $100 million are en route to India to help tackle the devastating second wave of the pandemic.
According to a factsheet issued by the White House, the Joe Biden administration is shipping 1,100 cylinders, 1,700 oxygen concentrators, 15 million N95 masks, 1 million testing kits and 20,000 treatment courses of remdesivir to India.
The shipments containing these emergency supplies are scheduled to arrive in the country late Thursday onwards, and will continue till the end of next week. They are being transported in three military aircraft, of which two will be coming by this week and the third by 3 May.
“We are facing an unprecedented second wave of the pandemic. As of now, we have over three million active cases. This has obviously put considerable pressure on our healthcare system, on the capacities and resources that we have,” Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla said at a media briefing Thursday.
Meanwhile, the US government has said it will redirect from its own supplies 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, though a timeline for this is yet to be announced.
“Reflecting the United States’ solidarity with India as it battles a new wave of COVID-19 cases, the United States is delivering supplies worth more than $100 million in the coming days to provide urgent relief to our partners in India,” the White House said in a statement.
The statement further noted that additional assistance is also being given by US state governments, private companies, non-government organisations and thousands of Americans across the country for deliveries of oxygen-related equipment and essential supplies for Indian hospitals in order to support frontline healthcare workers.
“Just as India sent assistance to the United States when our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” the White House added.
The US will also be supplying from their own stock 36 millipore filters, each of which will enable the manufacturing of 5,00,000 doses of Covishield vaccines in India.
“We have given assistance, we are getting assistance. It shows an interdependent world. It shows a world that is working with each other,” Shringla said.
1,100 oxygen cylinders, 1,700 concentrators in first tranche
In the first tranche of supplies, the US will be delivering 1,100 oxygen cylinders that can be “repeatedly refilled at local supply centers, with more planeloads to come,” the factsheet said.
It further noted that the US will also be initially sending 1,700 oxygen concentrators as well as oxygen generations units.
Oxygen generation units, also known as PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorption) Systems, are large-scale units that can support up to 20 patients each, and additional mobile units will help target specific shortages.
A team of US experts will support these units and will be working hand-in-hand on the ground with Indian medical personnel.
The US also wants to supply 17 oxygen generator plants.
Apart from this, the US will be sending 20,000 treatment courses of remdesivir — the drug that is most in demand currently for the treatment of Covid-19. India has been facing issues with Gilead Sciences, the drug’s manufacturer, on its ability to meet the surging demand in the country.
In addition to this, Gilead will be sending over 4,50,00 doses of the drug, according to Shringla.
India will also be sourcing the medicine from Egypt and Bangladesh. Although India also produces remdesivir, the production has not been able to meet the demand, the foreign secretary added.
Meanwhile, the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) also announced that it has deployed 440 oxygen cylinders and regulators, donated by California, from Travis Air Force Base on the world’s largest military aircraft.
“In addition, on this first flight, USAID will send 960,000 Rapid Diagnostic Tests to identify infections early to help prevent the community spread of COVID-19, and 100,000 N95 masks to protect India’s frontline healthcare heroes,” USAID said in a statement Thursday.
In its factsheet on India, the White House also noted that the US and India have closely worked together to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It said, the US’ Covid assistance has reached more than 9.7 million Indians across more than 20 states and Union Territories since the outbreak of the pandemic.
“The United States and India have closely worked together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. COVID-19 assistance has reached more than 9.7 million Indians across more than 20 states and union territories, providing life-saving treatments, disseminating public health messages to local communities,” it said.
The consignee of this assistance will be the Indian Red Cross. The crew won’t be needing any visas on arrival since the aircraft will fly back immediately after offloading items.
(This report has been updated with more details of the emergency supplies being sent by the US.)