First US emergency aid arrives in India as Covid-19 crisis deepens

The first US emergency aid to India arrived on Friday as the country struggled with a devastating increase in Covid-19 cases that have overwhelmed hospitals and crematoria.

A Super Galaxy military transporter with more than 400 oxygen cylinders and other hospital equipment and nearly one million rapid coronavirus tests landed at New Delhi International Airport.

India is currently recording a world record rate of more than 370,000 cases and 3,600 deaths a day and a huge international aid operation has been launched with dozens of countries promising aid.

The delivery, which flew in from Travis’ military base in California, followed talks this week between US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The United States is delivering more than $ 100 million worth of goods in the next few days to provide urgent relief to our partners in India,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday.

US officials said the special flights, which will also provide equipment donated by companies and individuals, will continue until next week.

Japan was the latest to offer assistance and announced on Friday that it would send 300 oxygen concentrators and 300 fans to India.

“Japan stands with India, our friend and partner, in its efforts to combat (Covid-19) the pandemic through this additional emergency aid,” the Foreign Ministry said.

More than 40 countries have pledged to send vital medical assistance, especially oxygen supplies, Foreign Minister Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters on Thursday.

Deliveries include almost 550 oxygen-generating plants, more than 4,000 oxygen concentrators, 10,000 oxygen cylinders and 17 cryogenic tankers.

Hundreds of thousands of doses of Covid-19 shots as well as raw materials to produce vaccines and drugs were also sent, he said.

“It’s an unprecedented situation,” Shringla said.

Doused with gasoline

India has seen about 18.5 million infections, including more than six million this month. More than 200,000 have died, although many experts suspect that the real figure is much higher.

In many areas outside the main hotspots in New Delhi and Maharashtra, hospitals are getting out of bed when relatives of the sick are desperately looking for medicines and oxygen cylinders.

Many crematoria are facing a shortage of wood due to the increase in deaths, with each bonfire requiring between 300 and 400 kilos of wood.

Some in the western city of Surat have started using wood that is not completely dry and harvesting waste and pouring petrol on the fire so that the wet wood burns properly.

Kamlesh Sailor, head of the Kurukshetra Crematorium in Surat, said they set up four new wooden campfire stands.

“This will be an addition to the existing eight wood – fired wood stoves and five gas stoves used around the clock,” says Sailor.

Shaky vaccinations

The Indian government will open vaccinations for all adults from Saturday, which means that about 600 million more will be eligible.

However, several states have warned that they do not have sufficient stocks and the expanded rollout is threatened by administrative competition, confusion over prices and technical problems on the government’s digital vaccine platform.

The financial hub of Mumbai, one of the major cities from the new wave, said late Thursday that it would stop vaccinations from Friday to Sunday “because vaccine stocks are not available”.

To date, only “front-line” workers such as medical staff, people over the age of 45 and those with pre-existing diseases have received the AstraZeneca shot or Bharat Biotech’s home-grown Covaxin.

But even this more modest program has faltered.

To date, about 150 million shots have been administered, corresponding to 11.5 percent of the population of 1.3 billion people. Only 25 million have had two shots.

(AFP)