“We are in touch with India and our High Commissioner in India Nadir Patel about a number of options that may be on the table for us to assist,” procurement minister Anita Anand said during a press conference Friday when asked whether Canada would step in to help.
“We will stand ready with PPE and ventilators and any items that might be useful for the government of India.”
In an emailed statement to Global News, Anand’s office said on April 23 they had “no further information” on what types of personal protective equipment (PPE) would be delivered or when more medical supplies would arrive.
To date, Anand said Canada has already procured 2.7 billion items of PPE, 1.5 billion of which have already been delivered.
“We will continue to be engaged to assist wherever possible,” she said.
What appears to be the world’s worst COVID-19 surge is wreaking havoc in India, suffocating patients in-hospital as officials scramble to obtain more desperately needed medical supplies.
For the third day in a row, India set a global daily record of new infections with 346,786 confirmed cases over the past day. The country’s health ministry reported another 2,624 deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing India’s COVID-19 fatalities to 189,544.
To date, India has detected more than 16 million confirmed cases, falling just behind the United States.
“Every hospital is running out (of oxygen). We are running out,” Dr. Sudhanshu Bankata, executive director of Batra Hospital, a leading hospital in India’s capital city, told New Delhi Television channel.
When asked what happens when a hospital issues an SOS call, he replied: “Nothing. It’s over. It’s over.”
The situation is so dire, a high court in Delhi warned it would “hang” anyone who tries to obstruct the delivery of emergency oxygen supplies.
Health experts are blaming politicians and government authorities for becoming complacent after initial downward trends in cases last year, and for failing to make needed changes to India’s health care system after the first wave.
“It’s not the virus variants and mutations which are a key cause of the current rise in infections,” tweeted Dr. Anant Bhan, a bioethics and health expert living in India.
“It’s the variants of ineptitude and abdication of public health thinking by our decision makers.”
Now, a “double-mutant” variant of the virus first discovered in India known as B.1.617 is driving the new wave forward.
The strain contains two mutations, the L452R and the E484Q. Experts say COVID-19 vaccines could be less effective against it.
Canada imposed a 30-day ban on passenger flights from India and Pakistan on Thursday in response to growing concerns over the spread of the new variant.
Canada is also struggling to contain rising COVID-19 cases as the country undergoes a third, variant-driven wave of the pandemic.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s top public health official, said health authorities have so far detected 78,729 variant of concern cases across Canada, including 75,413 involving B.1.1.7 variants, 2,853 P.1 variants and 463 B.1.351 variants.
In her daily statement, she noted these represent the “tip of the iceberg, as there are many more COVID-19 cases that have screened positive for mutations indicative of variants of concern.”
“Canadians are urged to remain vigilant, continue following local public health advice, and consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer,” she said.
–With files from The Associated Press and Global News’s Saba Aziz