Explained: US’ big plans to help India tide over COVID surge

Besides supplying essential medicines, oxygen concentrators and cylinders, the Biden administration has drawn a 5-point programme to assist India tackle the medical emergency

Till Wednesday (May 5), six air shipments funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had left for India.

The US has prepared a comprehensive plan to help India in its hour of need as the second wave of COVID left the country on the brink.

Till Wednesday (May 5), six air shipments funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had left for India. The flights carried health supplies, oxygen cylinders, N95 masks, and medicines. At the request of the Centre, the USAID had earlier provided some supplies to the Indian Red Cross as well. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the total help is likely to exceed USD100 million.

The US initially faced criticism for not doing enough to help India, which had wholeheartedly helped it a few months ago when COVID was raging there. The Indian diaspora in the US too pressurized the US administration, which finally came up with a comprehensive plan to help India.

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How US wishes to assist India

First, the US Defence Department has given the green signal to supply filters that are necessary to produce Covishield vaccine.

The US on Wednesday said it is in favour of waiving off intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. This is good news for a country like India, because once the patent is waived any company which possesses the required technology and machinery would be in a position to produce COVID vaccines. Additionally, the US is likely to give away 60 million surplus doses of AstraZeneca vaccine by June. Given the dire situation in India, the government here is likely to get a good chunk of these doses.

The US government has also readied a detailed plan for supply of oxygen and associated equipment, besides setting up field hospitals with oxygen beds.

The US government has also ramped up supplies of medicines, especially Remdesivir. A total of 1 lakh vials have been supplied immediately, while 2 lakh more vials will be made available by end of this month.

The Indian Express reported that the US Development Corporation would fund the Indian vaccine company BioE to expand its manufacturing potential. This is to enable India and the other three QUAD partners (US, Japan, Australia) to produce and distribute at least one crore doses by the end of 2022.

Also read: COVID: US to send supplies worth USD 100mn to India; first shipment airlifted

US defence official speaks to Indian counterpart

US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Dr. Colin H. Kahl spoke with Indian Defence Secretary Dr. Ajay Kumar by phone on Friday (May 7) and underscored the United States’ commitment to supporting the people of India as they battle a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Kahl assured Defence Secretary Kumar that U.S. Defense Department would continue to stand by India in its moment of need and support U.S. assistance efforts in the coming days.

Dr. Kahl and Dr. Kumar highlighted the enduring strength of the US-India strategic partnership, noting that the bonds between the two nations had only deepened in times of crisis. They reiterated their commitment to working closely with like-minded countries – including Quadrilateral partners – to address the defining challenges of our time.

Also read: US Vice President Kamala Harris family in India grapples with COVID

Earlier, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Biden administration is doing everything to support India’s frontline healthcare workers, as the country battles the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re moving urgently to support India’s front-line healthcare workers. And three U.S. Air Force C-5M Super Galaxies and a C-17 Globemaster 3 has already delivered many tons of critical supplies,” Austin told reporters at a Pentagon news conference on Thursday.

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