More than 40 countries, including US, Australia, New Zealand, European as well as neighbouring nations such as Bangladesh, Bhutan have committed to provide India with medical items and pharmaceutical products that the country urgently needs to battle the unprecedented rise in Covid-19 cases, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Thursday.
Towards this, India has prioritised procuring key medical items including oxygen and pharmaceutical products such as remdesivir. “We have prioritised certain areas. Liquid oxygen is one of the areas that has been a priority. We've also seen the requirement for anything that produces oxygen, oxygen generators, oxygen concentrators, oxygen producing equipment, cryogenic tankers, transportation equipment for oxygen. We’ve also needed some urgent pharmaceutical products like remdesivir and tocilizumab,” Shringla said in a briefing.
Over the next few days and weeks, Shringla hopes the country will receive over 500 oxygen generating plants, more than 4,000 oxygen concentrators, over 10,000 oxygen cylinders, 17 oxygen cryogenic tankers, some of which have already come in. Apart from that, US-headquartered Gilead Sciences has offered 450,000 doses of antiviral drug Remdesivir and 300,000 doses of antiviral drug Favipiravir from Russia, and UAE.
As announced by the US a few days ago, over the next couple of days, three special flights from the US will come. The first one will land on Friday morning and the other one in the afternoon, while the third flight will land on 3 May. These flights will carry two oxygen generating equipment, 2,000 oxygen concentrators, 500 oxygen cylinders.
India is also in touch with other manufacturers of Remdesivir in Egypt, to ensure a supply deficit in the country is met, even as India is making efforts to step up its domestic capacities, Shringla added. India normally manufactures 67,000 doses of Remdesivir a day, while the current requirement is between 200,000-300,000 a day. “So we have to bridge the gap, This is something that our producers are well aware of, they are actually ramping up their production…(domestic producers) they need the raw material inputs they need the support and that is something that is coming in the fullest possible way,” he said.
The ministry of external affairs is working with various government departments, other nations, private sector, as well as industry associations to deal with the situation. Currently, an empowered group has been engaged to see how India and quickly source bulk oxygen, larger Indian companies that were already integrated into supply chains globally, have been sourcing medical equipment, the official added.
“We are giving the topmost priority to meeting our immediate requirements in terms of healthcare facilities in combating the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Shringla told reporters.
Regarding a change in policy of expecting aid from other nations, Shringla said that many countries such as US and Gulf nations have come forward and offered to help India as India has been proactive in helping other nations over the one last year.
“It is an unprecedented situation. We are dealing with a situation that is exceptional. We have certainly proportised items we need. Many countries have come forward on their own to offer assistance. In many countries the fact that we have been responsive to their needs when they had requirements. ….when we supplied essential pharmaceutical products, paracetamol, hydroxycholoroquine, vaccines, remdesivir---we have given assistance, we are getting assistance. It shows an interdependent world,” he added.
Meanwhile, the US government has re-directed its own order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India, which will allow India to produce over 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, the White House said in a statement on Thursday.
Other immediate Covid-19 assistance from the US includes ,oxygen concentrators, oxygen generation units (PSA systems), 15 million N95 masks, rapid diagnostic tests, 20,000 treatment courses of the antiviral drug remdesivir.
“Reflecting the United States’ solidarity with India as it battles a new wave of Covid-19 cases, the United States is delivering supplies worth more than $100 million in the coming days to provide urgent relief to our partners in India,” an official statement said.