Australia will send oxygen, ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) to India as part of an immediate support package to the country which is battling with the latest surge of the COVID-19 cases, Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday.
The federal government was in the process of considering what it could send to help, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation news channel quoted Mr. Hunt as saying.
“India is literally gasping for oxygen,” the federal health minister said.
“And while we can assist with the national medical stockpile, their particular request is for assistance with regards to the physical supply of oxygen. That will be one of the things we are looking at, in particular with the states,” the minister said.
The federal government also confirmed to send oxygen, ventilators and personal protective equipment to India as part of an immediate support package to be announced on Tuesday, according to the report. However, Australia would not send vaccines.
Mr. Hunt further said: ‘’We are in a strong position on that front because we don’t need them at this point in time. We will still keep a reserve, but if they can be of assistance (they will be donated).” The National Security Committee of Cabinet is set to meet on Tuesday to discuss any assistance for India, as well as any extra steps that may need to be taken to minimise the risk of infections spreading to Australia.
The government was also considering banning all flights from India following the massive spike of coronavirus cases in the country.
The Cabinet meeting will discuss temporarily halting all repatriation flights out of India.
The move could affect thousands of people, including Australian cricketers currently playing in the Indian Premier League in India.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Australia’s ambassador to India Barry O’Farrell and officials from the Health Department, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Department of Home Affairs were holding discussions over recent days on how to deal with the emerging situation.
India is struggling with a second wave of the pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days, and hospitals in several States are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.
India’s tally on Monday climbed to 1,73,13,163 while active cases crossed the 28-lakh mark, with 3,52,991 people testing positive for coronavirus infection in a day, the highest so far, the Health Ministry said.
The death toll rose to 1,95,123 with a record 2,812 new fatalities, it said.