(NEW YORK) — The United States is “immediately” stepping up efforts to assist India as the country battles record COVID-19 cases and deaths, overwhelming hospitals and is leading its health system and other essential services towards collapse.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan placed a call to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval of India on Sunday to offer aid in their fight against the coronavirus.
“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,” NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.
Indian health authorities reported record increases on Sunday: 349,691 new cases and 2,767 new deaths.
The rising death toll has led to mass cremations in the streets, and as the crisis unfolds, countries such as France, Hong Kong, Canada and the United Kingdom have suspended all flights to and from India.
Horne said the U.S. is “working around the clock to deploy available resources and supplies” and “sources of specific raw material” that are required for Indian manufacture of Covishield, the AstraZeneca vaccine being made in India, “will immediately be made available.” The U.S. Development Finance Corporation will also help expand the capability of BioE, India’s vaccine manufacturer, to help produce more of the life-saving vaccine.
The U.S. is also immediately sending PPE, therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits and ventilators to help treat COVID-19 patients and for front-line health workers in India.
Hospitals in the capital of Delhi are completely out of critical oxygen supplies and are turning away patients. On Sunday, India’s government suspended all non-medical use of oxygen.
Horne says they are “pursuing options to provide oxygen generation and related supplies on an urgent basis,” and are “deploying an expert team of public health advisors from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and USAID to work in close collaboration with the U.S. Embassy, India’s health ministries, and India’s Epidemic Intelligence Service staff.”
Four thousand train coaches with 64,000 beds will be deployed in Maharashtra and Delhi at various railway stations to be used as isolation wards for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms, India’s Ministry of Railways announced.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, have called on the Biden administration to send unused stockpiles of vaccines to India and other countries.
“The United States has, according to some estimates, at least 30 million unused doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that the FDA has not yet authorized,” Jha wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Saturday.
Sharing vaccines with India was raised during a White House COVID-19 briefing on Friday and leading health officials said the option was being explored.
“I think that’s going to be something that is up for active consideration,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said when asked about that possibility by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday morning’s This Week.
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