India expects to receive supplies from about 15 countries including Australia, China, Germany, Russia, UAE, UK and the United States in the next few days, to help tide over the current crisis for oxygen at hospitals and pharmaceuticals needed to treat coronavirus cases.
On Monday, an Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft transported six cryogenic oxygen containers from Dubai, and is expected to airlift six more on Tuesday for the Adani group. A German company is expected to ship 24 more containers later this week.
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The Australian government said it hopes to send oxygen supplies, non-invasive ventilators, pharmaceuticals and PPE kits as well, and a decision on further aid will be made at a meeting on Tuesday.
“India is literally gasping for oxygen,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said, speaking to journalists in Canberra. “And while we can assist with the national medical stockpile, their particular request is for assistance with regards to the physical supply of oxygen,” he added.
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Government officials denied requesting aid, and said many of the consignments coming in are commercial supplies, while some, including the European Union and Russia have promised the assistance in the form of grants. However, officials said the grants during the pandemic are exceptional, and India’s long-held policy of not accepting foreign aid is still in place. Most of the donation offers will be routed through the Indian Red Cross, and not the government.
800 oxygen concentrators were also flown in from HongKong for Spice Health, a healthcare equipment manufacturing company, amongst a number of shipments expected from China. Meanwhile, Chinese state owned Sichuan Airlines said it would review its decision to suspend cargo flights to India due to the risk from the pandemic, which would have disrupted exports from China, Global Times reported.
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“If India raises specific demands, China is ready to provide help and support to the best of capability,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Webin said, but refused to comment on the airlines decision.
Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong said they would “encourage and guide Chinese companies” to facilitate supplies needed by India.
Also read: Coronavirus | Russia to fly in assistance including oxygen generators, concentrators
Indian officials said the priority at present is to fly in as much oxygen-related equipment, including containers, concentrators and generators, as well as COVID-treatment drugs remdesivir and tocilizumab, which are running in short supply. While Russian authorities have reportedly said international patent issues with the U.S. developer of Remdesivir, Gilead Sciences Inc. may delay their plans to export about 3,00,000 injections, New Delhi is hopeful of procuring stocks of the drug from the American company directly.
In reponse to a query from The Hindu , a Gilead Science representative also clarified that the company has “no plans” to issue patent violation notices to Russia if it decides to export the drug to India. Russia is expected to announce shipments of oxygen concentrators and stocks of drug Favipiravir later this week.