The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and all missions/posts have been playing a very important role in helping the government’s fight in controlling the spread of COVID-19. According to the official spokesperson of MEA, Anurag Srivastava, “Since we are part of the Empowered Group dealing with COVID-19, the ministry has been ensuring the availability of all medical equipment and supplies required. This is possible as all the Indian Missions/Posts are identifying and procuring from overseas suppliers.”
“The Indian missions are scouting the market, tapping commercial opportunities, closely coordinating with the suppliers as well as other agencies to ensure that the deliveries are done in a timely way,” the spokesperson explained.
Has this exercise helped?
Yes, Srivastava says.
India has due to efforts made by the missions and posts across the globe started receiving medical equipment, test kits, PPE, masks etc.
And, soon there will be more deliveries coming in from China on two dozen flights which will bring into India almost 400 tonnes of medical supplies which includes RT-PCR test kits, Rapid Antibody Tests, PPE kits, thermometers etc.
Another round of 20 more flights from China are expected which will be stepped up in the next few months that will bring all the critical equipment, supplies India needs in this fight against COVID-19.
Collaboration between Indian and foreign agencies to carry on research and development on Remdesivir, PLX Cells etc.which are related to COVID-19, is being facilitated by India.
India & South Korea
Besides China, an Indian subsidiary of a South Korean company SD Biosensor has started the production of COVID-19 rapid anti-body testing kits at its plant located in Manesar, Haryana. The plant which has a capacity of 5 lakh tests per week has already handed over the first batch of these to India and is expected according to sources going to ramp up the production of these kits… a perfect example of `Make in India for the world’.
Another South Korean Company has signed a contract with the Indian mission on behalf of ICMR to procure and supply the testing kits.
Other countries which are helping India include the US from where India is getting six SUV-sized high-speed testing machines. These machines are in high demand and are being sourced from Roche. Indian R&D labs are in touch with labs located in Israel and Germany which have undertaken cutting edge work.
Missions/Posts helping stranded Indian
In these troubled times, despite best efforts, the government has not been able to evacuate all the India from across the globes whose numbers run into several lakhs. However, Indian missions are trying to help them in the best possible way by providing them help including accommodation, medical help, food, and right to cross borders where possible.
In the South American region, several countries have shut their borders and are in lockdown mode. Though the numbers in countries like Guatemala, Honduras, or Colombia or Ecuador or Chile to name a few are not huge, still the Indian diplomats are working overtime to ensure timely help is extended to those in need.
One to a diplomat who wished to remain anonymous ensured the travel of Indians holding valid US or Schengen Visas is able to board US flights from Honduras.
“We have been trying to track the Indians who are stuck and we have been gathering their information and reaching out to them and extending help. There are students, or travellers or pregnant women who are keen to return to India as soon as possible,” said another diplomat.
“The Indian Community Welfare Funds are being used and we have been told that more funds can be made available to ensure all the help is being given, “ the diplomat quoted above added.
In several countries in these South American nations, the Indian communities have come forward to help, but due to social distancing, there are still some problems.
Indian companies like Parle is distributing food boxes in countries like Guatemala, revealed another diplomat.
In countries like Kazakhstan, mostly Indian students are stuck and besides getting help from the Indian Mission are also getting support from the Indians in that country. “However, since there are no classes, the students are getting restless and are keen to get back to India,” said a top Indian diplomat.
Missions in the US, Gulf countries or the European countries have been ensuring that those stranded get all help immediately. “For extending help all the missions have 24×7 helplines and a close network of chambers and the local community which is coming forward to extend help” explained an MEA source.