Countries pledge oxygen and medical assistance to India as crisis deepens

A health worker fixes an oxygen cylinder for a Covid-19 patient at a banquet hall converted into a quarantine center in New Delhi, India, on April 23.
A health worker fixes an oxygen cylinder for a Covid-19 patient at a banquet hall converted into a quarantine center in New Delhi, India, on April 23. AP

A number of countries have pledged to send oxygen and other medical assistance to India as the country is battling the force of a devastating second coronavirus wave, with hospitals in the capital reporting severe oxygen shortages.

For the past two weeks, medical facilities there have been running out of oxygen and ICU beds, with patients left to die at home and outside hospitals while waiting for care. 

On Tuesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Tuesday that Delhi government is importing 18 tankers of oxygen from Thailand, adding that they are expected to arrive on Wednesday.

“If these 18 tankers start arriving from tomorrow [Wednesday], the issue of transporting the oxygen will be resolved,” he said.

France has also pledged to help, saying that it would begin sending medical aid to India by the end of this week, according to a press release from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday. 

Eight medical oxygen production units, each of which will be able to make an Indian hospital autonomous in oxygen for ten years, will be part of the shipment. Liquefied oxygen containers and “specialized medical equipment,” —  in particular 28 respirators and their specific supplies — will also be part of the shipments, the press release said. 

“In response to the needs expressed by the country’s authorities, this material is intended to respond to the emergency but also to significantly and sustainably strengthen the capacities of Indian hospitals to treat the sick and fight the pandemic,” the French foreign ministry said.  

France and India have always stood in solidarity with each other in difficult times. This solidarity is at the heart of our strategic partnership and of the friendship between the French and Indian peoples,” it said.

Kejriwal said on Tuesday that Delhi is “importing 21 ready-to-use oxygen plants from France” which “can be brought in to be used immediately.” They will play a part in “in resolving the oxygen crisis in those hospitals,” he said.

Ireland became one of the first to confirm “concrete support” for India on Monday, according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. The Irish health minister announced that Ireland would send 700 oxygen concentrators — which were originally purchased by the Irish health service as part of their pandemic planning.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it was looking to help its citizens in urgent need with medical oxygen concentrators on Tuesday, while also planning to send medical and Covid-19 supplies like testing kits to the country.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam said in a briefing Tuesday that the Foreign Ministry were closely communicating with the embassy and consulates in India to secure the safety of South Korean citizens.

A total of 20,201 cases and 380 deaths were recorded in Delhi on Monday evening, according to a bulletin issued by the local health department.

The capital has reported more than 20,000 cases every day for the past ten days, with the total number of cases standing at 1,047,916, including 14,628 deaths.

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