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Foreign aid arrives in COVID-hit India

April 27, 2021

It's the first shipment of emergency medical supplies for the country as hospitals struggle to cope amid mounting coronavirus cases.

Medical staff unload a coffin in India
India's crematoriums and burial grounds are being overwhelmed by a devastating surge of infectionsImage: Channi Anand/AP Photo/picture alliance

Crates of ventilators and oxygen concentrators from the UK arrived at an airport in the Indian capital of New Delhi on Tuesday.

It is the first emergency shipment of medical supplies to arrive as part of a global campaign to bolster the country's health care system.

India has been overwhelmed by a huge surge in coronavirus infections. Health authorities recorded over 320,000 new cases and a further 2,771 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi tweeted photos of the 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, describing the delivery as "international cooperation at work."

More aid to arrive in the coming days

A shipment of medical equipment from Germany is also set to to be airlifted to India in the coming days, a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her government would "work with other countries to ensure that we can help India. We are working hard on finding ways to get oxygen production facilities there ... We want to do everything we can to help India." 

A boy sits with his head in his hands next to burning funeral pyres
Family members mourn next to the burning funeral pyres of those who died from COVIDImage: ADNAN ABIDI/REUTERS

The European Commission said on Tuesday that another shipment will be delivered by EU Member States to India. 

The EU emergency shipment includes oxygen concentrators and ventilators from Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also providing critical equipment and supplies to India.

Several other nations, including the US, Israel and Pakistan have also pledged to send medical supplies.

COVID situation in India

Hospitals in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people are facing a chronic shortage of oxygen and beds on their intensive care wards.

Many people are being forced to use makeshift facilities for mass burials and cremations as the country's funeral services have become overwhelmed.

India has called on its armed forces to help. It is releasing oxygen from armed forces reserves and providing retired medical personnel.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday described the situation as "beyond heartbreaking."

A new variant has been discovered in India, but experts say it is too early to know if that is driving the latest surge.

Australia latest country to ban flights

Australia on Tuesday announced a temporary ban on direct passenger flights from India, due to the "clearly present" risks of travel.

The suspension will remain in place until at least May 15.

It is the latest country to announce such a move. Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Britain have already halted or restricted flights from India. Earlier this month, New Zealand imposed a temporary block on all travelers from India, including for those who live in New Zealand.

fb,kmm/nm (AFP, AP)