- We stand side by side with India as a friend and partner: UK PM
- The first shipment is expected to reach Delhi early Tuesday
- 9 containers carrying over 600 pieces of medical equipment will be sent
The United Kingdom on Sunday said it was sending life-saving medical equipment to India - including ventilators and oxygen concentrators - as the country battles a devastating wave of Covid infections that has seen the active caseload jump to 27 lakh and leave over 1.9 lakh dead.
The first shipment is expected to reach Delhi early Tuesday, with more scheduled for the coming week. In total, nine containers carrying over 600 pieces - including 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators - will be sent.
"Vital medical equipment, including hundreds of oxygen concentrators and ventilators, is now on its way from the UK to India to support efforts to prevent the tragic loss of life from this terrible virus," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
"We stand side by side with India as a friend and partner during what is a deeply concerning time in the fight against COVID-19. I'm determined to make sure the UK does everything it can to support the international community in the global fight against pandemic," he added.
The UK is working closely with the Indian government to identify further avenues of possible assistance during the pandemic, news agency AFP reported.
Prime Minister Johnson was scheduled to visit India next week, but that has been cancelled for now.
Hours earlier the European Union also promised to help India in its fight to contain a wave of infections that has brought an already-creaking health infrastructure to its knees.
The European Commissioner for Crisis Management said the EU Civil Protection Mechanism had been activated after a request from the Indian government.
"The EU will do its utmost to mobilise assistance to support people of IN. Our #ERCC is already coordinating EU MS that are ready to provide urgently needed #oxygen & medicine rapidly," Janez Lenarcic, the Commissioner, tweeted.
Upon request for assistance by #India, we have activated the #EU Civil Protection Mechanism.— Janez Lenarčič (@JanezLenarcic) April 25, 2021
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Our #ERCC is already coordinating EU MS that are ready to provide urgently needed #oxygen & medicine rapidly.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "To the people of India I want to express my sympathy on the terrible suffering that Covid-19 has again brought over your communities."
On Friday France also spoke up, saying it stood by India in this crisis.
"I want to send a message of solidarity to the Indian people, facing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. France is with you in this struggle, which spares no-one. We stand ready to provide our support," French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain said.
India reported 3.49 lakh new cases in 24 hours on Sunday morning - adding to the 3.46 recorded Saturday, the 3.32 lakh on Friday and the 3.14 lakh on Thursday.
The frightening surge has left hospitals overflowing, and oxygen and medicines in very short supply.
It has also led to travel bans from several countries, including the UK and Germany.
The week-long oxygen crisis in Delhi - where at least 50 patients died Friday alone due to supply issues - has grabbed much of the headlines, but the situation is as dire in other parts of the country.
Several states and UTs, including Delhi, have imposed night curfews and strict restrictions on movement during the day, and have announced free vaccination programmes in an effort to inoculate as many people as quickly as possible to contain the virus.
The surge in cases in India, experts have said, is likely the result of more aggressive strains in circulation, in addition to people's laxity in following Covid-appropriate protocols.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose government has been criticised for failing to anticipate and plan for this wave of infections, has held multiple meetings over the past week.
The country has opened up vaccination to all those over the age of 18, starting May 1, and approved a third Covid vaccine - Russia's Sputnik V - for emergency use.
With input from AFP