New Delhi: India’s External Affairs Ministry on Thursday assured a gasping nation that more than 40 countries have thrown a lifeline to meet the urgent requirements of its people. These do-gooders include third world countries like Bhutan and Bangladesh. One is saying we have oxygen, the other is saying we have Remdesivir. Please take some of it.
This was the thrust of the special ministry briefing on international cooperation on COVID pandemic, which is seen by political observers as a quick damage control exercise following growing demands for PM Modi’s resignation over his poor handling of the crisis.
Talking to the gathering, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said, “Our External Affairs Minister had a video conference last evening with all Heads of Missions around the world, to direct them to meet the exigencies of our health system. To begin with, we are looking at government to government sourcing of bulk liquid oxygen. Likewise, the production of Remdesivir is not adequate to meet the shortfall. In response to our appeal, there is an outpouring of assistance; besides help has emanated from Indian corporates who are well integrated in supply chains; Indian community associations, too, have asked what we can do to assist. We want to channelize all this, facilitate quick clearance and ensure that supplies reach where these are needed most. Liquid oxygen is a priority. We need to bridge the supply gap by ramping up production of Remdesivir. Cabinet Secretary is overseeing this process. A range of ministries is involved. There are blanket exemptions from taxes --- this is quite a major effort.”
mGiving detail of the help sourced from abroad, the Foreign Secretary said, “From the UK, the first flight got oxygen concentrators. From the U.S., in the first shipment, we got 28 million litres of oxygen and 1,110 cylinders. We are also expecting on Friday three special flights from the United States which will bring 2000 oxygen concentrators and 500 cylinders. From Russia, too, we are getting numerous items, including oxygen generating sets. We have already got ventilators and monitors from Moscow. Japan has been very responsive and offered us concentrators, ventilators and pharmaceutical products. Mauritius has offered us assistance. Bhutan has offered us help; Bangladesh is saying we have Remdesivir. Please take some of it. We have a special cargo flight arriving tonight from UAE with ventilators and Favipiravir. Two flights from Ireland are coming with 700 concentrators. A flight from France will also be coming in on Saturday. We are talking of obtaining close to 550 oxygen generating plants in the next few days from different sources around the world.’’
Replying to a question, the Foreign Secretary said, “We have done our best to tap supply sources of Remdesivir -- be it Gilead Sciences or their authorised manufacturers in Egypt or Israel. Gilead Sciences has committed 4,50,000 doses from the company on gratis and we hope to get additional 4,50,000 from Egypt. We know that it is being manufactured in Bangladesh and Uzbekistan and this can bridge the short-term gap. Tociliizumab is a priority and we are going to get it from Germany and Switzerland. We are also expediting raw material supplies not only for production of Remdesivir but also for vaccines. We have also been offered 300,000 doses of Favipiravir. Roche has also agreed to expedite their raw material supplies.”
Responding to questions on the status of the Vaccine Maitri initiative, Shringla said, “When we were in a position to, we provided vaccines under Vaccine Maitri. Today, our needs are far greater, and all our partners understand that. ‘’