Workers prepare a funeral pyre for a Coronavirus victim at a crematorium
Workers prepare a funeral pyre for a Coronavirus victim at a crematorium

Geneva (Switzerland)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said that it has bolstered its COVID-19 response in India by redeploying 2,600 health experts from other programs to counter the recent daily spike in cases and deaths.

In an email to CNN, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said: "As is true in any country, WHO has said the combination of relaxing of personal protective measures, mass gatherings and more contagious variants while vaccine coverage is still low can create a perfect storm." The health body also said that the problem of hospital overcrowding is being aggravated by patients who may not need to be there.

"Currently, part of the problem is that many people rush to the hospital (also because they do not have access to information/advice), even though home-based care monitoring can be managed very safely," said Jasarevic.

The WHO spokesperson further said that less than 15 per cent of people who have contracted the virus actually need hospital care and even fewer will need oxygen.

WHO is also appealing for people to not stockpile essential supplies like oxygen cylinders and drugs, CNN reported.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will provide 4,000 oxygen concentrators to India which is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and related deaths, a spokesperson of the global health body said on Tuesday.

India is reeling under the impact of the second wave of coronavirus. The country has been reporting over three lakh daily cases in the last few days.

As India fights against the unprecedented health crisis of COVID-19, global support in the form of oxygen supplies, ventilators, raw material for vaccines, PPT kits and oxygen concentrators have started pouring in.

Technology giants like Google and Microsoft have also chipped in to support the country in the current crisis.

The UK has said 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators will be sent to India this week. Out of these 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators arrived on Tuesday.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said earlier in the day that Australia will send 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.

US President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday and pledged America's steadfast support for the people of India who have been impacted by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. The United States is providing a range of emergency assistance, including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials, and therapeutics.

India reported over 3.60 lakh fresh COVID-19 cases and close to 3,300 related deaths in the last 24 hours, its biggest single-day hike since the onset of the pandemic.

The total count of positive cases now stands at 1,79,97,267 whereas the death toll has soared up to 2,01,187 deaths. A total of 1,48,17,371 people have recovered so far from the disease.

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden
Brendan Smialowski/AFP

US rushing assistance to India to combat Coronavirus surge: President Biden

Lalit K Jha

Washington

The US is rushing a whole series of help, including life-saving drugs and machinery, that India needs to combat the massive surge in COVID-19 cases, President Joe Biden has said, as he again recalled New Delhi's assistance to America when it was in a "bind" due to the pandemic.

Biden spoke at length with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday and conveyed solidarity with India in its fight against the viral disease.

"We are sending immediately a whole series of help that he needs, including providing for those Remdesivir and other drugs that are able to deal with this," Biden told reporters at a White House news conference on Tuesday.

"We are sending the actual mechanical parts that are needed for the machinery they have to build a vaccine, and that is being done as well," he said.

The president said he had discussed with Prime Minister Modi when the US would be able to send actual vaccines to India.

The Biden administration has come under criticism from several quarters, including from members and supporters of the Democratic Party, for not releasing surplus COVID-19 vaccines to India when the country is experiencing its worst-ever public health crisis.

"The problem is right now, we have to make sure we have other vaccines like Novavax and others coming on probably, and I think we will be in a position to be able to share vaccines as well as know-how with other countries who are in real need," Biden said.

"I might add when we were in a bind in the very beginning, India helped us," Biden said, referring to India, the largest producer of hydroxychloroquine, lifting the ban on the export of the medicine to the US after then President Donald Trump spoke to Modi on phone last year.

On Sunday Biden had tweeted that "Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need." On Monday, Biden assured Modi that the United States and India will work closely together in the fight against COVID-19.

India is currently struggling with a second wave of the pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days, and hospitals are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.

Biden pledged America's steadfast support for the people of India who have been impacted by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

In response, the United States is providing a range of emergency assistance, including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials, and therapeutics.

Biden and Modi resolved that the United States and India will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the effort to protect our citizens and the health of our communities, the White House said in a readout of the telephonic conversation between Biden and Modi.

Meanwhile, American lawmakers applauded Biden for all the help he was extending to save the lives of people suffering from COVID-19 and urged him to do more.

"The US maintains a moral obligation to assist our ally India as they face severe challenges posed by COVID-19. We must take every necessary step to ensure the Indian people receive the aid and assistance they need to emerge from this crisis," Congressman Brad Sherman, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Tuesday.

"My heart goes out to the people of India and neighbouring nations as they fight an uphill battle with COVID. I'm glad that the White House is providing these life-saving vaccines, but we will need a strong, coordinated global response in the days ahead," Congresswoman Carolyn Boudreaux said.

Congressman Michael Waltz Press said India was an essential ally in America's global competition with China.

"Its strength is important to stability in Asia and the United States. We must do what we can to help them curb their new wave of COVID cases," he added.

Congressman Bill Foster said while America continues to make progress in battling this pandemic, the critical situation in India can't be ignored.

Several other American lawmakers have also come out in support of India as its people battle one of the gravest challenges to its public health system.

Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, too came out in support of India.

"Pursuing vaccine equity doesn't just advance our economic and health security - it's a moral imperative. As a bastion of innovation & champion for marginalized people everywhere, the US must lead efforts to guarantee immunization access to EVERYONE at home & abroad," Menendez tweeted.

Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said he was pleased the US will be sending its AstraZeneca supply to India and other countries in need of it as he had urged earlier.

Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn, co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus, in a letter to Biden, said they were watching with growing alarm the unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths, which have overwhelmed hospitals and the overall health system in India.

The pandemic has devastated populations and nations across the globe, making it very clear that the virus knows no borders. To control its spread globally, saving lives abroad and here at home, the US must do its part to attack the virus where it is most devastating and active, they wrote in the letter dated April 27.

"We write to urge you to accelerate US efforts to support other countries as they work to combat the COVID-19 virus," it said.

Over the weekend, the two jointly made a call to the White House, urging it to consider sending urgent help to India.

* Singapore Minister flags off two C-130s with 256 oxygen cylinders for India

* New Zealand to give 1 million NZ dollars to Red Cross to assist India in the fight against Covid-19

* Canada pledges $10M donation to Indian Red Cross

* Germany to send large oxygen plant to India in a week

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