(This was originally posted in The Print by Snehesh Alex Philip)
New Delhi: India has turned down the US proposal to send a Covid-19 ‘Strike Team’, which would have constituted members of the Epidemic Intelligence Service apart from others, saying New Delhi had never sought one. India said all and any such collaboration will be undertaken through a virtual medium, ThePrint has learnt.
“There is no so-called American ‘strike team‘ in India or on its way. India is fine with technical personnel who are coming in for assistance of certain equipment being sent in from abroad as they have different operating systems and are not a pure plug-and-play technology. It needs to be made compatible to the India system and the Indian operators need to be trained,” a source in the central government told ThePrint.
While the US had initially planned to send in over a dozen battlefield oxygen generators, sources in the Indian government said there are compatibility issues and hence smaller-sized systems are being brought in.
Meanwhile, Germany has already stationed 12 of its armed forces paramedics in India to help train an Indian team to operate a large system being brought on board two aircraft, capable of generating 4,00,000 litres of oxygen a day.
“There are some other technical teams, which have come in or will come in later. They will train, help set up and leave,” the source quoted above said.
‘Strike team’ not part of India’s request
Government sources said India had sent the US government specific requests based on which focused aid was being worked out. According to them, the announcement of the “strike team” was not done in consultation with Indian authorities and now Washington has been informed that it was not needed.
“I have seen reports that it will have some sort of an epidemic investigation team. But the virus outbreak is not limited to just one area or region. Whatever consultation or cooperation needs to be done, it will be through the virtual medium,” another source said.
Asked about the battlefield oxygen generators that were to be brought in, sources said there were compatibility issues and it would have also meant US soldiers operating it. They said one smaller system is being brought in and other countries are in the process of supplying larger systems.
US aid received so far
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said six air shipments, funded by USAID, have departed the country, five of which have already arrived in India. These flights include health supplies including oxygen and oxygen supplies, N95 masks, rapid diagnostic tests, and medicines.
“And these are a lot of the components that the Indian government has expressed a vital need for. More flights are on the way, with total assistance expected to exceed $100 million,” Psaki said. Apart from this, the USAID delivered approximately 1,500 cylinders that will remain in India and can repeatedly be refilled at local supply centers, with more to come.
It has also sent approximately 550 oxygen concentrators that can derive oxygen from ambient air. USAID has also delivered a large-scale oxygen generation unit that can support up to 20 patients. “We’ve also sent 2.5 million N95 masks, and we have an additional 12.5 million N95 masks available should that request come from the Indian government. And we’ve directed our own order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India, allowing India to make over 20 million doses,” the press secretary said.
“We’ve also provided 1 million rapid diagnostic tests. And this weekend — this past weekend, USAID delivered 20,000 treatment courses of the anti-viral drug remdesivir to help treat hospitalised patients,” she said.