Biden Administration Pledges Aid to India as COVID-19 Cases Surge

April 27, 2021 by Reece Nations
Health workers and relatives carry the body of a COVID-19 victim for cremation in Jammu, India, Sunday, April 25, 2021. As India suffers a bigger, more infectious second wave with a caseload of more than 300,000 new cases a day, the country’s healthcare workers are bearing the brunt of the disaster. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

NEW DELHI — President Joe Biden vowed to help Prime Minister Narendra Modi secure medical resources to help India combat the rampant spread of COVID-19 during a diplomatic call on Monday, affirming the United States’ support for its ally after a delay in response drew national criticism.

The Biden administration announced it would divert therapeutics, personal protective equipment, oxygen and other medical supplies to India as the country reels from a dramatic outbreak of novel coronavirus. Positive cases of COVID-19 have risen every day in India since the beginning of April, but some experts believe the true number is underreported due to low testing levels and the country’s strained medical infrastructure. 

There have been at least 17,313,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India since the onset of the pandemic, according to India’s Ministry of Health and Welfare. As of Tuesday, almost 200,000 people have died from the virus, although experts believe this figure is undercounted as well.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a written statement. “To this end, the United States is working around the clock to deploy available resources and supplies. The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India.” 

Oxygen needed for ventilators has been in desperately short supply in India, particularly in the nation’s capital of New Delhi. French officials announced this week the country would send eight large oxygen generators to New Delhi while officials from Germany, Australia and Ireland announced they were sending oxygen concentrators and ventilators, according to Reuters. 

Biden — alongside Modi and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan — announced a plan in March to ramp up COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing capacity in India, TWN previously reported. The plan is projected to allow Indian companies to increase manufacturing capacity for the region by 1 billion doses by 2022, although this course of action does little to help India in the short term.

“When the U.S. needed help early in this pandemic, India came to our aid,” said U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., in a statement on Twitter. “It’s time that we show them, and the rest of the world, that America’s word is America’s deed. We can show the power of America as an ally.” 

Kim continued, “Let’s be clear, China and Russia have been using their vaccines to gather favor globally. The U.S. is the strongest country in the world when we lead with our values, but our values mean nothing without action.” 

India is second to only the U.S. in total COVID-19 cases, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

On Monday, White House senior advisor Andy Slavitt announced on Twitter that the Biden administration will divert 60 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses abroad as they became available. The U.S. is believed to have secured over 550 million excess vaccine doses, according to a recent study by the ONE Campaign. 

“To everyone who understandably says: ‘about time’ or ‘what were they waiting for’, at this time there are still very few (vaccines) available,” Slavitt said on Twitter. “No real time has been lost.”

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