First shipment of UK aid arrives in India

First shipment of UK aid arrives in India

Medical supplies from the UK arrived in India on Tuesday – the first international shipment aimed at stemming a devastating Covid-19 surge.

Ventilators and oxygen equipment landed in Delhi, but far more will be needed, with many hospitals overwhelmed and people waiting in the streets outside.

India recorded 320,000 new infections on Tuesday, and deaths are now close to 200,000 in total.

One health adviser called the aid for a nation of 1.3bn “a drop in the ocean”.

Zarir Udwadia, who works in Mumbai hospitals and counsels the government, told the BBC’s Today programme the currently pledged supplies would have limited effects. He said he was seeing “ward after ward full of patients struggling to breathe on ventilators of different forms and shapes”.

Dr Udwadia said the complacency over getting vaccinated during the first wave had now given way to long lines of people outside medical centres jostling to get shots.

“Vaccine hesitancy has become vaccine desperation,” he said.

Although India’s statistics currently stand at 17.6 million cases and 197,500 deaths, some believe the real figures to be much higher. One investigation by NDTV found that over the past week in Delhi alone some 1,158 deaths may have gone unrecorded.

The UK shipment of 200 pieces, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators – which will help hospitals manage oxygen supplies – was unloaded at Delhi airport on Tuesday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said it was “international co-operation at work”, but it is just the first trickle in what needs to be a flood of supplies for a nation of 1.3 billion people.

US President Joe Biden said on Monday he would send up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine abroad and, although the destinations were not given, India could be a prime recipient.

World Health Organization spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, said it would deliver 4,000 oxygen concentrators to India.

France is sending oxygen production units, as well as oxygen containers and respirators, and some shipments of empty cylinders have already arrived from Thailand and Singapore.

And India has stepped up its own efforts – the first “Oxygen Express” train, which aims to transport 70 tonnes of the gas, arrived in the capital.

The surge varies from state to state, with Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, along with Delhi, among those badly affected.

Images from many Indian cities show people waiting outside hospitals in ambulances or lying on makeshift beds, while elsewhere flames rise from the funeral pyres of victims.

Actor and singer Priyanka Chopra was among those sending out messages calling for international help:

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