UK rushes aid to India as COVID-19 surge kills thousands daily

May 02, 2021

A COVID-19 patient wearing oxygen mask waits inside a vehicle to be attended and admitted in a dedicated COVID-19 government hospital in Ahmedabad, India. — courtesy Twitter
A COVID-19 patient wearing oxygen mask waits inside a vehicle to be attended and admitted in a dedicated COVID-19 government hospital in Ahmedabad, India. — courtesy Twitter

NEW DELHI — Britain rushed to increase aid for India’s teetering health care system on Sunday, promising more ventilators and expert advice as doctors grapple with a surge in coronavirus infections that is killing thousands of people a day.

The UK government said it will send an additional 1,000 ventilators to India. In addition, England’s National Health Service, which has battled one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Europe, is creating an advisory group to share its expertise with Indian authorities.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans a video meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Tuesday to discuss further cooperation between the two countries, the UK government said in a statement.

India recorded 392,488 new infections, down from a high of more than 400,000 in the previous 24 hours. It also reported 3,689 deaths, raising overall virus fatalities to 215,542.

Meanwhile, New Delhi has threatened to punish government officials who have failed to deliver life-saving supplies, as India continues to battle a devastating coronavirus surge that has overwhelmed many of its hospitals.

Hospitals are struggling to secure a steady supply of oxygen, leaving more COVID-19 patients dying amid the shortages. New Delhi extended a lockdown by a week as it continues to battle the wave of infections.

On Saturday 12 patients, including a doctor, on high-flow oxygen, died at a hospital in the capital after it ran out of supplies for 80 minutes, the director of Batra Hospital, S.C.L. Gupta, said.

The government has been using the railroad, the air force and the navy to rush oxygen tankers to the worst-hit areas. Several hospital authorities sought a court intervention over lack of supplies.

"Water has gone above the head. Enough is Enough,” said New Delhi High Court, adding it would start punishing government officials if supplies of oxygen allocated to hospitals were not delivered.

"We can’t have people dying,’’ said Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Patil. The court said it would start contempt proceedings.

The army opened its hospitals to civilians in a desperate bid to control the massive humanitarian crisis. Modi's government also gave emergency financial powers to the army to set up new quarantine facilities and hospitals, and to buy equipment.

The military also called up 600 doctors who had retired in the past few years. The navy deployed 200 nursing assistants in civilian hospitals, a government statement said.

In another report, a forum of scientific advisers set up by the government had warned Indian officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus taking hold in the country, five scientists who are part of the forum told Reuters.

Despite the warning, four of the scientists said the federal government did not seek to impose major restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.

Millions of largely unmasked people attended religious festivals and political rallies that were held by Modi, leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition politicians.

Tens of thousands of farmers, meanwhile, continued to camp on the edge of New Delhi protesting Modi’s agricultural policy changes.

The world’s second-most populous country is now struggling to contain a second wave of infections much more severe than its first one last year, which some scientists say is being accelerated by the new variant and another variant first detected in Britain.

On Saturday, India said all adults 18 and over could get shots. Since January, nearly 10% of Indians have received one dose, but only around 1.5% have received both, although the country is one of the world’s biggest producers of vaccines.

The United States, Britain, Germany and several other nations are rushing therapeutics, rapid virus tests and oxygen to India, along with some materials needed for India to boost its domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines. — Euronews

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