The first consignments of medical supplies from the US and Russia are expected to reach India in the next two days and Indian missions abroad were told to focus on procurement of oxygen-related equipment and critical medicines such as Remdesivir, sources said on Wednesday.
They said India has sought from the US medical supplies, including ready-to-use vaccine doses, as well as raw materials for production of COVID-19 vaccines, they said.
The sources said an American aircraft carrying medical supplies is expected to land in India on Friday while a Russian plane is set to arrive by Thursday.
With a large number of countries stepping in to send medical aid to India, the sources said no appeal for international assistance was made and that the supplies are largely being routed through the Indian Red Cross Society.
The sources said India has been looking at oxygen-related items and critical medicines from abroad and Indian missions in leading countries have already been told to focus their efforts on their procurement.
They said India was looking at specific products to buy and the list has been shared with the Indian embassies for their procurement.
Some of it will come as grants to the Indian Red Cross Society, some of it is coming as individual procurement by public sectors undertakings, private sector and state governments, they said.
They said the main focus of overseas procurement has been oxygen generating plants, oxygen concentrators and small and big oxygen cylinders as India is facing difficulty in transporting medical oxygen from various plants to the hospitals.
“We were looking at oxygen itself but it is not easy. To bring oxygen, you need cryogenic tankers which are very limited in the world,” said a source.
The other broad area of focus is procurement of critical medicines like Remdesivir, Tocilizumab and Favipiravir from the US and several other countries.
When asked about reported comments by US officials at a recent background briefing that India has not made any request for ready-to-use vaccines from the US, the sources said the requirement of vaccine by India was taken up with the Biden administration.
“The US is aware of our interest in procurement of vaccines, AstraZeneca or otherwise,” said a source.
The sources said the US could be having around 10 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine at present and it is expected to produce 50 million doses by June.
The sources said the empowered group will take a call on whether to accept from foreign countries supplies like PPE (personal protective equipment) kits, masks and similar items as India is not facing their shortage.
They said India is making commercial procurements of medical equipment from a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates.
In response to a query on whether there was a shift from India’s policy of not accepting foreign aid enunciated after the 2004 tsunami, the sources said lot of material are coming from several foreign countries but they are specific to oxygen supply and medicines.
A number of leading countries including the US, Russia, France, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Singapore, Portugal, Sweden, New Zealand, Kuwait and Mauritius have announced medical assistance to India to help it fight the pandemic.
Singapore on Tuesday supplied to India 256 oxygen cylinders.
“Timely support from a trusted friend! Appreciate the 256 oxygen cylinders that arrived from Singapore today. Value our cooperation to tackle the pandemic together,” spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Arindam Bagchi tweeted.
France on Tuesday said it is sending to India five containers of liquid medical oxygen and each of them is capable of supplying medical oxygen to up to 10,000 patients per day.
The country is also sending 28 ventilators and their consumables, as well as 200 electric syringe pumps.
Under the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism, Ireland is sending 700 oxygen concentrators, one oxygen generator and 365 ventilators to India while Belgium is supplying 9,000 doses of antiviral medicine Remdesivir and Sweden is providing 120 ventilators.
Similarly, Romania is supplying 80 oxygen concentrators and 75 oxygen cylinders while Luxembourg is sending 58 ventilators to India.
On its part, Portugal is in the process of shipping 5,503 vials of Remdesivir and 20,000 litres of oxygen per week.
As part of its Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU plays a central role in coordinating its responses to emergencies in Europe and beyond.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia will send to India 500 ventilators, one million surgical masks, 500,000 P2 and N95 masks, 100,000 goggles 100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields.
India has been reeling under a devastating wave of coronavirus infections and hospitals across the country are facing acute shortage of beds, medical oxygen and other supplies due to rising COVID-19 cases.