New Delhi: The first consignments of medical supplies from the US and Russia are expected to reach India by Thursday and the government was primarily focusing on procurement of oxygen tanks, generators and related items as well as critical medicines from abroad, sources said on Wednesday. They said India sought medical supplies from the US including AstraZeneca vaccines as well as raw materials for production of the vaccines through the Indian embassy and various other channels.
As India battles a devastating second wave of coronavirus pandemic, countries around the world including the US, Russia, the UK and Germany have announced sending medical supplies to India to help it tide over the situation. The sources said India has been looking at oxygen-related items and critical medicines from abroad and Indian missions in leading countries have already been told to focus their efforts on their procurement.
They said the primary focus of overseas procurement has been oxygen generating plants, oxygen concentrators and small and big oxygen cylinders as India is facing difficulty in transporting medical oxygen from various plants to the hospitals. "We were looking at oxygen itself but it is not easy. To bring oxygen, you need cryogenic tankers which are very limited in the world," said a source.
The other broad area of focus is procurement of critical medicines like Remdesivir from the US and several other countries. The sources said an American aircraft carrying medical supplies is expected to land in India by Thursday while a Russian plane is set to arrive tonight or on Thursday. The sources said a high level inter-ministerial group is coordinating distribution of the overseas supplies as well as related matters and added that state governments are free to go for procurement in line with their requirement They said there is no response to China's offer of support to India in view of the COVID-19 situation, and that there has been no restrictions on commercial procurements from that country.
The sources said the empowered group will take a call on whether to accept from foreign countries supplies like PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kits, masks and similar items as India is not facing their shortage. A number of leading countries including the US, Russia, France, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Singapore, Portugal, Sweden, New Zealand, Kuwait and Mauritius have announced medical assistance to India to help it fight the pandemic.
Singapore on Tuesday supplied to India 256 oxygen cylinders.
"Timely support from a trusted friend! Appreciate the 256 oxygen cylinders that arrived from Singapore today. Value our cooperation to tackle the pandemic together," Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Arindam Bagchi tweeted.
France on Tuesday said it is sending to India five containers of liquid medical oxygen and each of them is capable of supplying medical oxygen to up to 10,000 patients per day. The country is also sending 28 ventilators and their consumables, as well as 200 electric syringe pumps.
Under the European Union's Civil Protection Mechanism, Ireland is sending 700 oxygen concentrators, one oxygen generator and 365 ventilators to India while Belgium is supplying 9,000 doses of antiviral medicine Remdesivir and Sweden is providing 120 ventilators. Similarly, Romania is supplying 80 oxygen concentrators and 75 oxygen cylinders while Luxembourg is sending 58 ventilators to India.
On its part, Portugal is in the process of shipping 5,503 vials of Remdesivir and 20,000 litres of oxygen per week. As part of its Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU plays a central role in coordinating its responses to emergencies in Europe and beyond. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia will send to India 500 ventilators, one million surgical masks, 500,000 P2 and N95 masks, 100,000 goggles 100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields.
India has been reeling under a devastating wave of coronavirus infections and hospitals across the country are facing acute shortage of beds, medical oxygen and other supplies due to rising COVID-19 cases.