The federal government will send up to 350 much-needed ventilators from its national emergency stockpile and up to 25,000 vials of antiviral remdesivir to help, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) said in a release on Wednesday.
Remdesivir, which is also known as Veklury, is a medication used to help treat patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19. According to GAC, 25,000 vials of remdesivir can be used for at least 4,000 courses of treatment.
In an emailed statement to Global News, the Canadian Armed Forces said the members of the Royal Canadian Air Force left from Trenton, Ont., early Wednesday morning, and are set to arrive in India on Saturday.
“After identifying the needs and requirements on the ground and how best Canada can assist, these requested medical supplies have been made available to help bring some relief to those affected by COVID-19 in India,” said Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
India is undergoing a catastrophic second wave that has left the country in critically short supply of oxygen, ventilators and hospital beds, leaving patients dying waiting for help and suffocating to death in ICUs.
On Wednesday, the country reported 382,315 new confirmed cases and 3,780 reported deaths within the last 24 hours, in what is widely believed to be an undercount.
In collaboration with its international partners, Canada is also providing 1,450 oxygen concentrators. GAC said that the funding for the concentrators comes from the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was announced in December 2020.
“The supplies identified for this donation will not compromise continued efforts of the COVID-19 response at home in Canada,” the statement read.
Last week, the federal government also pledged $10 million to the Indian Red Cross, which is helping India procure medical supplies and medicine.
Countries are racing to provide India’s population of 1.4 billion people with medical supplies, but some experts worry they may not be enough.
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“Ten million and a few ventilators is a drop in the bucket,” Rajshri Jayaraman, an associate economics professor at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, previously said of one of Canada’s efforts.
“For a country that size, and where daily case counties have reached over 300,000 — which is probably a massive underestimation — $10 million is just not going to get you very far.”
Ashish Shah, senior director for philanthropy and community engagement at Indiaspora, a global network of people of Indian origin who work for social change, called the situation in India “desperate.”
“We need to get the funds and deploy them because after a month, it’ll be too late,” he said.
— With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press