Germany, Australia working to rush equipment, ventilators for India’s Covid-19 response

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Germany and Australia are working to rush equipment such as an oxygen production plant and ventilators to India to bolster the country’s Covid-19 response in the wake of record-breaking Coronavirus infections over the past few days.

The German Army will provide a large oxygen production plant and efforts are on to transport the broad-spectrum antiviral medication Remdesivir and other medicines from emergency stocks, German ambassador Walter Lindner said on Monday.

The Australian government is considering donating non-invasive ventilators to India from stocks created at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, health minister Greg Hunt was quoted as saying by ABC News. The National Security Committee of Australia’s Cabinet will meet on Tuesday to finalise the assistance for India.

In a separate development, Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s chief medical advisor, said the US could “actively consider” providing vaccines from its stock of 30 million AstraZeneca Covid-19 shots to India.

On Monday, India set a global record for the rise in Coronavirus infections for the fifth consecutive day, with 352,991 cases reported since Sunday. The number of deaths too rose to an all-time high of 2,812, according to official data.

Lindner said Germany understands the urgency of the situation and authorities are “working day and night” to airlift critical equipment and medical supplies to India. People across Europe have been moved by the scenes of loss emerging from India, he said.

The German Army will ship a large oxygen production plant and other authorities are working to provide respirators, ventilators and huge quantities of Remdesivir and other medicines from German emergency stocks.

In the private sector, Tata and Linde Group have partnered to provide more than 20 oxygen tanks to increase transport capacity between oxygen producers and Covid-19 hot spots, while more than 20 oxygen plants being purchased by the Indian side from a company in southern Germany will be airlifted by the Indian Air Force, Lindner said.

Cooperation between UNICEF and Germany, which was started last year, will be intensified to provide cooling chains for vaccines, he added.

Australian health minister Hunt said a specific request had been received from India for the physical supply of oxygen and authorities would check if any oxygen supplies could be donated. The government could donate non-invasive ventilators from Australia’s national stockpile that was created last year.

“We are in a strong position on that front because we don’t need them [ventilators] at this point in time,” Hunt said.

A cleared picture on the aid from Australia is expected after the meeting of the National Security Committee on Tuesday.

Fauci told ABC News’ This Week programme that the US needs to do more to help India’s current Covid-19 response. “I don’t think you can walk away from that,” he said.

He said discussions were underway “about really ramping up what we can do on the ground – oxygen supplies, drugs, tests, PPE, as well as taking the look into the intermediate and long run about how we can get vaccines to these individuals, both immediately now, as well as in the situation where you help them to be able to essentially make vaccines themselves”.

Asked specifically if the Biden administration could help India with its stock of about 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which hasn’t been approved for use in the US, Fauci replied: “You know, I think that’s going to be something that is up for active consideration…I don’t want to be speaking for policy right now with you, but I mean, that’s something that certainly is going to be actively considered.”

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that critical equipment and supplies was coming into India as a mix of donations – such as the assistance being provided by Germany, Australia and the US – and commercial purchases, such as the oxygen tanks airlifted Singapore and United Arab Emirates.

The people said China’s offer to provide support hadn’t been taken up so far, and pointed out that tweets and statements by Chinese officials about equipment being sent to India – such as a tweet from the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka about 800 oxygen concentrators airlifted from Hong Kong to New Delhi on Sunday – involved commercial purchases made by Indian firms.

Chinese embassy spokesperson Wang Xiaojian said in a statement that China “will encourage and guide Chinese companies to actively cooperate with India to facilitate acquiring medical supplies”.

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