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8th May 2021

First EU aid sent to India as Covid-19 crisis worsens

  • India, with a population of 1.3 billion, has only vaccinated (with one dose) around nine percent of its population (Photo: Trinity Care Foundation)

A group of six member states have sent India a shipment of oxygen, medicines and critical equipment as the populous Asian country fights a devastating surge in Covid-19 cases, spurred by the new "double mutant" that is spreading across the country.

"The EU stands in full solidarity with the Indian people and is ready to do its utmost to support them at this critical time," EU commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarčič said on Tuesday (27 April).

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"I would like to thank our member states that came in numerously with generous offers of help, showing that the EU is a trusted partner and a friend at times of need," he added.

Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden, through the EU civil protection mechanism, are sending oxygen concentrators, ventilators, and doses of antiviral medicines Remdesivir - in a bid to tackle a new surge of coronavirus infections that is pushing the death toll towards 200,000.

With more than 300,00 new infections recorded on Tuesday, for a sixth consecutive day, the number of cases in India now stands at 17.64 million - the second highest in the world, behind only the US.

"India is now contributing close to 40 percent of all daily new Covid-19 cases reported in the world, and 70 percent of all new cases in Asia" health economist Rijo M John of the Indian Institute of Management in the southern state of Kerala said on Twitter.

The surge in the number of cases, and shortage of oxygen supplies and medicines, is overwhelming healthcare systems, pushing some hospitals in major cities close to collapse.

The European Commission president said earlier that she was "alarmed" by the situation in India, and stressed that Europe was ready to support India.

More support from other EU member states, such as France and Germany, is expected in the coming days.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said her country "stands in solidarity with India and is urgently preparing a mission of support".

And the Elysee confirmed on Monday that France will supply India with "substantial medical aid" starting next weekend -including a shipment of oxygen generators, respirators and cryogenic containers.

First aid arrives

Meanwhile, the first cargo of medical equipment donated by the UK arrived in New Delhi in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Further shipments are due later this week.

"We will continue to work closely with the Indian government during this difficult time. I am determined to make sure that the UK does everything it can to support the international community in the global fight against the pandemic," said UK prime minister Boris Johnson.

The United States, for its part, also said that it will provide "a range of emergency assistance, including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials and therapeutics".

India, with 1.3 billion inhabitants, has only vaccinated nine percent of its population with a first dose.

The head of the World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has described the situation in the Asiatic country as "beyond heartbreaking". The WHO said it was working to deliver 4,000 oxygen concentrators as well as medical personnel to India.

Armed forces were mobilised by India's prime minister Narendra Modi on Monday to help hospitals fighting the alarming epidemiological situation.

Where possible, military medical infrastructure will be made available to civilians, a government statement said, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, many countries, such as the UK, France, Italy, Belgium, Australia or Canada, have suspended or imposed limitations on air travel from India.

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