The first life-saving assistance package to help India meet the urgent need for ventilators and oxygen concentrators in its devastating second wave of the covid-19 pandemic has been dispatched by the UK and is due to arrive in New Delhi in the early hours of Tuesday.
Further shipments, paid for by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), are being organised over the course of this week and will include nine airline container loads of supplies, including 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators. The focus at the moment is on expediting a constant flow of the equipment required immediately on the ground in the most efficient way, UK government sources said.
In the longer term, discussions are ongoing to coordinate the response across government departments, the High Commissions of both countries and Indian diaspora groups in Britain to address the needs and requirements in India, where hospitals continue to struggle with supply shortages as the country recorded over three lakh coronavirus cases for the fifth day on Monday.
Over the weekend, the FCDO had announced that following discussions with the government of India, more than 600 pieces of vital medical equipment will be sent to India to support the country in its fight against COVID-19.
"Vital medical equipment, including hundreds of oxygen concentrators and ventilators, is now on its way from the UK to India to support efforts to prevent the tragic loss of life from this terrible virus," said Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said the UK stands side by side with India as a "friend and partner" during a deeply concerning time.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who also referred to India as a "very important partner", held talks with external affairs minister S Jaishankar on Monday. "Discussed our cooperation to address different aspects of the COVID challenge. Also reviewed progress in our bilateral agenda," Mr Jaishankar said in a Twitter statement following the call.
The FCDO has said the equipment on its way to India will be crucial in helping to save the lives of many vulnerable people. The oxygen concentrators can extract oxygen from the air in the atmosphere so that it can be provided to patients, taking the strain off hospital oxygen systems and allowing oxygen to be provided in situations where hospital oxygen supplies have run out.
The UK government said its Department of Health and Social Care worked closely with the National Health Service (NHS), as well as suppliers and manufacturers in the country, to identify reserve medical equipment from surplus stocks that can be transported to India.
The UK has categorised the assistance package as the latest example of UK-India collaboration throughout this pandemic, to the benefit of both countries and the world. Its delivery coincides with the week set aside for Boris Johnson's visit to India during which his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi were to pave the way to an Enhanced Trade Partnership.
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