US pledges steadfast, ongoing support for Covid hit India

US-India relations

In “a warm and positive call” Biden tells Modi that US, India will work closely together in Covid fight.

As India reported another day of 300,000 plus cases in a devastating second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, President Joe Biden pledged America’s steadfast, ongoing support for the people of India impacted by the surge.

In a phone call Monday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he committed that the United States and India will continue to work closely together in the fight against Covid, the White House announced.

“It was a warm and positive call,” said “senior administration officials” in a background briefing. “The leaders affirmed the strong ties between our nations, both of which have suffered so much under this pandemic.”

“We are in close touch with Indian officials at all levels.  And we’re also closely coordinating with our allies, friends, and Quad partners about how we can collectively support India in its hour of need.”

Specifically, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters among the areas “of great interest and of great need to India” the US at India’s request, “are exploring options to provide oxygen and related supplies.”

READ: Indian Americans concerned about travel to Covid hit India (April 26, 2021)

The Department of Defense (DOD) and USAID are pursuing options to provide oxygen generation systems, she said.

“We may be in a position to reroute shipments planned for other countries with lower immediate needs, given the urgency of the conditions in India,” Psaki said.

DOD is also exploring providing field oxygen generation systems, which the US has used in its field medical hospitals.  Each unit can provide oxygen for up to 50 to 100 beds.

US is “also exploring options to provide oxygen concentrators and ventilators, and are in technical discussions with India to ensure the equipment we supply can connect to Indian devices,” Psaki said.

This is in addition to 200 ventilators and training of medical professionals on their use and other assistance provided to India last year by the US.

The administration has also identified US commercial suppliers of PPE — one of India’s major needs — as well as therapeutics and tests and Remdesivir that are immediately available to help relieve the suffering of Covid-19 patients in India.

READ: United States offers to make vaccine ingredients available to India immediately (April 25, 2021)

“We’ve identified rapid diagnostic testing supplies, personal protective equipment, and additional ventilators available to be transferred to into India immediately,” Psaki said.

The US was also in close touch with Indian officials at all levels about the raw material needs that they have, she said. “And as requested by India, we will provide raw materials for the production of AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at Serum Institute of India.”

However, Psaki clarified that “right now we have zero doses available of AstraZeneca” as the “FDA needs to go through a review to ensure its safety and meeting our own bar and our own guidelines.”

“And we expect there to be approximately 10 million doses that could be released if or when the FDA gives its concurrence, which could happen in the coming weeks,” she said.

An estimated additional 50 million doses that are in various stages of production could be completed in stages across May and June.

READ: Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella rushing aid to covid-hit India (April 26, 2021)

Asked if the US would temporarily suspend travel from India like Canada and the United Kingdom amid concerns about the variant there, Psaki said, “I don’t have any restrictions — or rollback of restrictions to preview today.”

In response to a question about the Indian government ordering Twitter and Facebook and Instagram to block social media posts criticizing the handling of the Covid response there, she said, “Well, that certainly wouldn’t be aligned with our view of freedom of speech around the world.”

Later “senior administration officials” in a background briefing noted “that US and India have had the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world.  Our two nations have suffered greatly.”

“We remember India’s generosity to the United States in the early days of the pandemic, when India offered medications to us as our hospitals were strained,” they said.

“And the US and India have been partners on global health for seven decades.  We’ve had a very strong health partnership,” the officials noted.

READ: How pressure mounted on Biden administration to help India during coronavirus surge (April 25, 2021)

“Over the years, we’ve battled polio, smallpox, HIV, and now we’re fighting the Covid-19 pandemic together, including through the longstanding collaboration between our Center for Disease Control and India’s Epidemic Intelligence Services.”

Officials recalled that over the “weekend, we had several high-level calls with Indian officials about the best ways that we can support India’s fight against this current surge of Covid-19.”

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Sunday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar late last week “and we’ve now shared the range of support that we are prepared to immediately start deploying.”

Noting that there is not enough of the supply of raw materials for the production of the AstraZeneca for the entire global manufacturing effort, officials said “in light of the current crisis, we, the United States, are diverting our order to India.”

READ: Vinod Khosla offers to help Indian hospitals with import of oxygen (April 24, 2021)

“Because of the scope of the current situation in India and state of our own production here at home, this was the most effective and rapid step we could take at this stage to provide support at scale,” they said.

USAID and CDC will also provide technical assistance and materials, and strengthening vaccine communications related to confidence in vaccination, and suppor of vaccine readiness at the national and subnational levels, officials said.

On India’s request for oxygen and related supplies, officials said  DOD and USAID are pursuing options to provide oxygen generation systems. The US government is also preparing to help with transportation of these and other supplies to India.

USAID will also work in the public health arena with CDC to support and fast track the mobilization of emergency resources available through the Global Fund.

READ: Covid tsunami hits India with record 332,000 daily cases (April 23, 2021)

India’s base allocation through the Global Funds Covid-19 resource mobilization round is $75 million.

Meanwhile, India reported a total of 3,23,144 new Covid19 cases and 2,771 related deaths in the last 24 hours, a slight dip compared to a day earlier, according to Indian Health Ministry update on Tuesday morning.

In a glimmer of hope, India also recorded a total of 2,51,827 new daily recoveries, a 14.84% jump within a day. India’s recovery rate now stands at 82.54%.

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READ: Don’t let the ‘America First’ derail India-U.S. ties (April 24, 202)

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