China suspends flights bringing medical supplies to India; Russia's Sputnik V to arrive on May 1
With the rapid surge in Covid cases in the country, international efforts are underway to help India as the country suffers critical oxygen shortage.
While the UK has begun sending ventilators and oxygen concentrator devices, US is lifting a ban on sending raw materials abroad, thus enabling India to manufacture more of the AstraZeneca vaccine. EU members will be also sending in aid. PM Modi will hold a virtual summit with the EU on May 8 to discuss Covid support and cooperation. The government is also negotiating for large tranches of medical assistance from Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Singapore.
The head of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is calling the recent surge in coronavirus in India “beyond heartbreaking” and says the UN agency has dispatched critical supplies to the subcontinent, including thousands of portable oxygen machines that help patients breathe.
On the other hand, China's state-run Sichuan Airlines has suspended all its cargo flights to India for 15 days, causing major disruption to private traders' efforts to procure the much-needed oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies from China despite Beijing offering "support and assistance" to the country to deal with the latest surge of Covid-19 cases.
The airlines operated 10 flights on six routes to four India cities comprising Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore. The airlines said “…in the face of sudden changes in the epidemic situation (in India), in order to reduce the number of imported cases, it is decided” to suspend the flights.
Meanwhile, India will receive the first batch of Russia`s Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19 on May 1, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Kirill Dmitriev, has said. Russia`s RDIF sovereign wealth fund, which is marketing Sputnik V globally, has already signed agreements with five leading Indian manufacturers for over 850 million doses of the vaccine a year.
The RDIF has said it expects production of the vaccine in India to reach 50 million doses a month by the summer and to rise further.