Govt sets up Inter-Ministerial group to clear global relief materials ASAP, while Biden calls Modi and offers help

By: |
April 28, 2021 12:18 PM

With so much global help coming in for fighting the COVID-19 crisis, a high level Inter-Ministerial group has established procedures for immediate clearance of these materials.

Covid-19, high-level Inter-ministrial meeting, Groupto, US medical aid to India, US congress, Biden administratioon, KN95 masks., liquid oxygen containers, ventilatorsAll efforts to strengthen India’s fight against the pandemic are on. 318 Philips Oxygen Concentrators on Air India flight from JFK Airport landed at Delhi Airport. (PTI Photo)

With so much global help coming in for fighting the COVID-19 crisis, a high level Inter-Ministerial group has established procedures for immediate clearance of these materials. Sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online on Tuesday: “The material would be dispatched promptly to the recipient institutions in various parts of the country in coordination with various government agencies.”

Several countries in the past few days have offered help to fight the surge in the COVID-19 cases in India. Materials including oxygen concentrators, ventilators, respiratory material and more are coming from countries including the UK, France, Russia, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Kuwait and others.

As has been reported by Financial Express Online, the UK has announced that it is sending 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators, this week. Around 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators have already arrived in India on Tuesday.

Relief material from France is arriving in two phases: In the first phase, which is arriving later in the week according to sources, it will include oxygen generating plants that can be installed quickly, liquid oxygen; respiratory material (28 respirators and their consumables), and 200 electric syringe pushers.

In the second phase, expected to arrive next week, there will be five liquid oxygen containers. Countries like Ireland will send 700 oxygen concentrators this week, while Germany is planning to send a mobile oxygen production plant (that will be made available for three months), 120 ventilators, and more than 80 million KN95 masks. Germany is also planning a webinar on testing and RNA sequencing of coronavirus.

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has announced plans to send 500 ventilators, 100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields, one million surgical masks, 500,000 P2 and N95 masks and 100,000 goggles.

Assistance proposed by the US to India

On April 26, 2021, the US President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and acknowledged India’s assistance to the US in the early days of the global pandemic.

President Biden also during the telephone call pledged America’s steadfast support for the people of India who have been impacted by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

And is planning to send a range of emergency assistance, including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials, and therapeutics.

There have been a series of calls from the top officials including the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense of the Biden administration to their counterparts in India offering assistance and expressing concern over the COVID outbreak. Also, Vice President Kamala Harris while conveying her prayers for the people of India stated that the US is working closely with the Indian government to rapidly deploy additional support and supplies.

The US Secretary of Defense Llyod Austin has stated that the Department of Defense has been directed to use every resource at their disposal, within its authority, to support US interagency efforts to provide India’s frontline healthcare workers with the materials needed.

Why the turnaround? Expert View

Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies says, “Rectifying its earlier mistake, the Biden administration seems to be making serious efforts to mobilize resources for India in its battle against the COVID. The US state department and the CEOs of MNCs are coming forward to help India in acquiring necessary medical and protective equipment.”

“The US would prefer to deal independently with various institutions in India, while India wants it done through the PMO. The US has also released the extra stock of Astra Zeneca vaccine and oxygen equipment,” he says.

According to him “This is a very positive development and would be welcomed by the people of India. Even a small help at the time of crisis is remembered better than big cooperation during the normal times.”

Who are the others?

While House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Chair Representative Gregory Meeks welcomed the US announcement to provide support to India, several US Congressmen implored the Biden Administration to urgently provide support to India.

Congressman Andy Kim, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthy, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal; Representative Ilhan Omar; Representative Ann Kirkpatrick; Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey; Congressman Ro Khanna have all urged the administration to export raw materials needed for life-saving vaccines to India is an important initiative. They have also suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine doses, oxygen concentrators, and other supplies in its stockpiles not being used can be shipped.

Relief from the US

As reported earlier relief from the US will include Therapeutics, personal protective equipment, and tests. And also the identified US commercial suppliers of Remdesivir that are immediately available.

Most importantly, facilitating India’s own access to those supplies through US-based sources.

The US has also decided to approve supply of filters required for manufacture of Covishield vaccines. Later in summer the US administration is expected to share about 60 million doses of AstraZeneca with various countries including India.

Technical expertise

As was decided during the virtual QUAD meeting called by President Biden under the Quad Vaccine Initiative, US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is funding a substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for BioE. This will help in enabling the vaccine manufacturer in India, to build a supply of at least a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of next year.

Also, the USAID will work with CDC to support and fast-track mobilization of emergency resources available to India through the Global Fund.

US Private sector pitches in

Google is donating Rs 135 crore in funding to Give India and UNICEF for medical supplies, and the organizations supporting high-risk communities, and grants to help spread critical information.

Gilead has offered to supply HLL with 100,000 vials of Remdesivir free of cost. And later this week the first and second consignments are expected to be shipped. Later in the month of May they are expected to supply an additional amount of 200,000 vials. Some institutions in India will be provided raw material for local production.

US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) has plans to assist with 12 ISO containers to help transport oxygen in India. Oxygen cylinders will be airlifted into India.

Also, through the donations of the member companies USISPF is sourcing 100,000 portable oxygen concentrators for use at home and hospitals. These will be shipped to India immediately.

The member companies based in the US have been approached to supply and/or donate ICU beds, COVID-Test kits, N-95 Masks and other medical equipment.

It also has plans to working with member companies and NGO partners to set up vaccination and medical centres on corporate campuses.

US-India Business Council (USIBC) members have offered resources for the the initiatives to be taken to help.

Procter & Gamble will contribute towards vaccination of over 5 lakh Indian Citizens pledging Rs 50 crore in partnership with government and local authorities in India. For every P&G employee in India, the company is contributing towards the vaccination of 100 Indians. In addition, it will be covering the vaccination cost of its over 5,000 employee force in India, along with their eligible family members.

Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon have offered their resources, technology towards relief efforts.

Amazon is joining hands with ACT Grants, Temasek Foundation, and Pune Platform for COVID-19 Response (PPCR) and other partners to urgently airlift over 8,000 oxygen concentrators and 500 BiPAP machines from Singapore.

Medical supplies through other channels

Singapore: 500 BiPAPs, 4 Cryogenic Oxygen Containers & other medical supplies and 250 oxygen concentrators

Saudi Arabia: 80 MT of liquid oxygen which is on the way through the sea route.

Hong Kong: 800 Oxygen Concentrators

Thailand: 4 Cryogenic Oxygen Tanks

UAE: 6 Cryogenic Oxygen Containers

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