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International community is rushing medical assistance to India as the country fights a massive virus surge that is crippling the country’s healthcare system. In a gesture of solidarity, the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have said they are dispatching medical equipment, oxygen tanks and cylinders. Several other countries have also pledged assistance in the last two days.
The US on Monday said it will supply raw material required to ramp up vaccine manufacturing. In terms of immediate assistance, the UK and Germany are sending ventilators and other medical equipment. Saudi Arabia is supplying 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen and 5,000 medical grade oxygen cylinders and an Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft was in Dubai on Tuesday to airlift cryogenic oxygen containers to aid oxygen supply to hospitals.
The Indian government must not hesitate in requesting and accepting foreign assistance. In the coming days, the number of active cases will increase dramatically as new infections rise. This will further erode capacity of hospitals to treat patients, leading to a big spike in mortality rate
The country is witnessing an unprecedented surge with a sharp rise in mortality, significantly widening the pool of active cases. This is putting the healthcare system under tremendous stress and denial of treatment has become routine even in big cities. A countrywide shortage of oxygen is killing people in hospitals and in homes.
This week, 25 Covid-19 patients died at a private hospital due to low oxygen pressure in New Delhi, and five at a facility in neighbouring Haryana state. Desperate families are begging for oxygen cylinders on social media and crowding filling plants where they have to wait for up to eight hours.
While the international community’s assistance is welcoming, the situation on the ground is very bad and worsening each day. A government report published in Indian media on Tuesday predicted up to 500,000 new cases daily by early May. If these projections are correct then India will require full scale international assistance to save lives.
Sheer scale of disaster
Government statistics have not fully captured the scale of the disaster and epidemiologists have warned of widespread underreporting of cases and deaths. Reports from states, including the national capital Delhi say hospitals are on the verge of collapse.
Disturbing visuals of people gasping and dying in front of hospitals and mass funerals at crematoriums and graveyards indicate that the pandemic is getting out control. Families are forced to cremate their kin in parking lots and on footpaths and wait for up to a day to find a slot at crematoriums.
Therefore, the World Health Organisation and United Nations must act with urgency and do all to marshal global assistance for India. Also, the Indian government must not hesitate in requesting and accepting foreign assistance. In the coming days, the number of active cases will increase dramatically as new infections rise. This will further erode capacity of hospitals to treat patients, leading to a big spike in mortality rate.