Nadir Patel, Canada’s high commissioner to India, welcomed the first consignment of what he described in a tweet as “urgently-needed” medical supplies including 25,000 vials of anti-viral COVID-19 medication remdesivir and 50 ventilators on Saturday.
“Canada continues to stand in solidarity with the people of India,” Canada’s foreign affairs minister Marc Garneau tweeted. “We must all unite and work together in the global fight against #COVID19.”
India reported 401,078 more COVID-19 cases on Saturday, and a record high of 4,187 new deaths in the last 24 hours, the latest data from Johns Hopkins University showed.
Infections have surged throughout the country since February, with many blaming new, possibly more deadly and transmissible variants as well as the Indian government’s decision to allow crowds to gather for religious festivals and political rallies.
The catastrophic wave has been made worse by a country-wide oxygen shortage, leaving hospitals to turn away those who fall ill, COVID-19 patients to die in their hospital beds and some suffocating to death in their cars, just outside hospital doors.
“The problem is the demand is so high that we need constant oxygen,” Dr. Sanjay Gururaj, the medical director at Shanti Hospital and Research Center, previously said.
“The hospital is sending a truck twice a day to oxygen plants on the outskirts of the city to bring back 12 jumbo oxygen cylinders.”
Under normal circumstances, Gururaj said that much oxygen would be enough to last more than two weeks.
But “now, it lasts just over a day.”
Canada has agreed to supply India with 350 ventilators and up to 25,000 vials of remdesivir from its national emergency stockpile to help, Global Affairs Canada confirmed to Global News in an email Saturday.
“Canada’s support to India complements the work with international partners to respond to urgent needs caused by this pandemic that will and help save lives,” the statement said.
The agency added that “supplies identified for this donation will not compromise continued efforts of the COVID-19 response at home in Canada.”
In a previously emailed statement to Global News, Global Affairs Canada said 25,000 vials of remdesivir can be used for at least 4,000 courses of treatment.
“If there was ever a time for countries to support one another, it is right now,” Karina Gould, Canada’s minister of international development, said in a previous release.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing growing pressure from medical experts, opposition leaders and several Supreme Court judges to impose a severe nationwide lockdown.
The Serum Institute of India, which manufactures much of Canada’s AstraZeneca Covishield vaccines, has been ordered to halt exports to help with the growing crisis at home.
A “co-ordinated countrywide strategy” is needed, Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, a public-private consultancy, told the Associated Press.
More to come.
— With files from the Associated Press
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