(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times)
The first of three special US flights carrying supplies to bolster India’s Covid-19 response, including hundreds of oxygen cylinders and regulators, landed in New Delhi on Friday. The materials were ferried in a C-5M Super Galaxy, one of the largest strategic airlift aircraft, and at least two more emergency flights are expected by May 3 in line with US President Joe Biden’s pledge to help India counter a devastating second wave of Coronavirus infections.
The US embassy tweeted: “The first of several emergency Covid-19 relief shipments from the United States has arrived in India! Building on over 70 years of cooperation, the United States stands with India as we fight the Covid-19 pandemic together. #USIndiaDosti”
The supplies in the first emergency relief shipment, sent from Travis Air Force Base, included more than 400 oxygen cylinders and regulators donated by the state of California, 960,000 rapid diagnostic tests and 100,000 N95 masks provided by USAID. “A strategic partnership of global significance! Our healthcare partnership can help effectively tackle the global pandemic. Deeply appreciate gift of 423 oxygen cylinders with regulators and other medical supplies from the U.S.A.,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.
The US military’s transportation command played a key role in arranging the flight. Earlier, the US department of defense had tweeted: “Help is on the way. Lifesaving oxygen equipment from @USAID is bound for India to combat #COVID19 and loaded for delivery at @Travis60AMW.”
The second emergency relief shipment, being sent in a C-17 Globemaster aircraft, too is expected on Friday. It will include oxygen-related equipment, diagnostic kits, masks and pulse oximeters.
The initial emergency assistance from the US will include 1,100 oxygen cylinders, 1,700 concentrators to obtain oxygen from ambient air, multiple large-scale oxygen generation units to support up to 20 patients each and additional mobile units to target specific shortages. A team of US experts will support oxygen generation units by working on the ground alongside Indian personnel.
The support will also include raw materials for the Covishield vaccine that the US has re-directed from its own order of manufacturing supplies. These materials will allow India to make more than 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, the White House said.
Biden had pledged the support of the US during a phone conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.
The US relief supplies began flowing in shortly after support packages from Russia and member states of the European Union (EU), part of a global effort to help India cope with record-breaking infections that have surged past the 300,000-mark over the past several days. The support will also help address a severe shortage of oxygen, which has been blamed for many deaths in recent days.
Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said on Thursday that support is expected from more than 40 countries, mostly oxygen-related equipment and critical medicines, to strengthen India’s response to an “unprecedented second wave” of infections.