US publicizes help to India to assist combat devastating coronavirus surge

Virus Outbreak India’s Oxygen Crisis Photo Gallery (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

US National security adviser Jake Sullivan announced that the US is sending aid to India to help fight the devastating coronavirus surge in the country.

In a Sunday statement, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said that Mr Sullivan had spoken to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” the statement said.

Ms Horne added: “The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available.”

This includes “therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and Personal Protective Equipment,” according to the statement.

The administration further added that they are “pursuing options” to urgently supply the country with “oxygen generation”.

Ms Horne also said that the US Development Finance Corporation is funding an expansion of the “manufacturing capability for BioE, the vaccine manufacturer in India,” which would allow BioE to “produce at least one billion doses” before the end of next year.

The administration is deploying a “team of public health advisors” from the CDC and USAID to work with the US embassy in New Delhi and Indian health authorities.

Secretary of State Antony Blinkentweeted late on Saturday that the US “will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India’s health care heroes,” as the country fights a horrific Covid-19 outbreak.

Mr Blinken said “our hearts go out to the Indian people” and “we are working closely with our partners in the Indian government”.

India has had four straight days of record-setting case numbers, with prime minister Narendra Modi telling his nation in a radio address on Sunday: “Our spirits were high after successfully dealing with the first wave. But this storm has shaken the nation.”

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The “storm” he’s referring to is the over 300,000 new cases every day for the past four days, the most in the world since the start of the pandemic.

Authorities announced a tally of 349,691 new cases on Sunday, in addition to 2,767 deaths, both daily records.

Even as 1,002,938,540 vaccine doses had been administered around the world as of Saturday, the global number of infections hit a record number on Friday at 893,000 new cases. India made up a third of those cases on its own.

The announcements of aid from top US officials comes after harsh criticism of the Biden Administration for its supposed deaf ear to the rest of the world’s struggles with containing Covid-19.

The administration has been slammed for hoarding stockpiles of unused vaccines and stopping the export of equipment needed to manufacture additional doses.

Pressure has been growing on the US to lift the export controls on materials and supplies that could advance India’s vaccine supply and that Indian manufacturers argue have been slowing down their process.

Many fear that the official Indian death toll of 192,311 people is severely misleading and is underestimating the size of the crisis as many won’t get tested and don’t have access to healthcare.

Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, argued in a Washington Post Op-Ed on Saturday that the country of 1.3 billion people is close to a humanitarian catastrophe. He called on the administration to send oxygen and medicines and to lift all export controls.

He added that the US should start sharing excess vaccine doses with struggling countries. The US has an estimated 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine which has not yet been approved for use in the US.

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